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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: Glowing Trash May Be Becoming Fish Food
26 February 2014 5:00 pm
HONOLULU—Could glowing microbes be enticing ocean fish to snack on bits of plastic trash? That’s the intriguing idea floated here this week at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting by researchers studying the "plastisphere"—the sea’s millions of tons of drifting synthetic detritus. “It’s a whole new ocean habitat created by humans,” says microbiologist Tracy Mincer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. Past studies have shown that more than 1000 kinds of seagoing bacteria and other microbes can live on the plastic bits, which are often smaller than a fingernail. “Out there in the middle of the ocean, [microbes] are really looking for surfaces to glom on to,” Mincer says. But some colonizers do better than others, he reported. One big winner, according to a preliminary genetic analysis, are bacteria in the genus Vibrio—many of which are bioluminescent. Indeed, researchers making nighttime trawls for plastic trash noted that up to 40% of their catch was glowing. And such shimmering refuse could be especially attractive to fish that hunt by sight, Mincer says. That could be bad for the fish, but good for the microbes, which can thrive in fish guts. “It’s a good gig for the bacteria—they have all the right genes to put a tap in that keg.”