We dump huge amounts of plastic waste into the ocean every year, much of it ending up as microplastic – fragments less than 5 millimetres across. Famously, much of it has gathered in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and it may harm animals that inadvertently swallow it.
Now, it appears that microplastic is hosting life as well as hurting it, creating a new niche in the vast oceans. The tiny fragments in the Atlantic Ocean have been colonised by microbes not found in open water, a community dubbed the "plastisphere".
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