Have Trash, Will Travel
Like a cross between hitchhikers and shipwrecked sailors, marine animals are straying from their normal habitats by catching rides on sea-borne trash, according to an article appearing in the current issue of the journal Nature. Marine organisms have always traveled from place to place via natural debris such as floating wood and pumice, but now the vehicle of choice seems to be plastic. In the old method, species couldn’t get very far before the natural debris disintegrated — but traveling by nigh-indestructible plastic, marine organisms can colonize ecosystems thousands of miles from home. Nomadic organisms pose a threat to native plants and animals, especially in Antarctica, where species are already being compromised by warmer temperatures.