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extreme close up of plastic bag

The Plastisphere

You're looking at a close-up of a remnant of a plastic trash bag collected from the Atlantic Ocean—magnified 10,000 times by a scanning electron microscope. Tracy Mincer, a biogeochemist at WHOI, zoomed in even further and found microorganisms (colorized in blue) nestled in nooks and crannies on the surface—living on and hithching a ride on this teensy bit of plastic floating in the ocean. Patches of stringy-looking substances secreted by organisms festoon the plastic like party streamers. Mincer and colleagues dubbed this newly emerging ecological habitat the plastisphere—a diverse multitude of microbes colonizing and thriving on flecks of plastic that pollute the oceans. (Photo by Tracy Mincer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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