Scientists Say: Plastisphere | Science News for Students

Scientists Say: Plastisphere

When an ecosystem exists on plastic, it gets a special name
Jul 11, 2016 — 7:00 am EST
plastic mask

These limpets have made their new home in an old plastic snorkel mask. They have become part of a plastisphere. 

Andrea Westmoreland/Wikimedia Commons

Plastisphere (noun, “PLAS-ti-sfeer”)

This is an ecosystem — a group of living organisms — that makes it home on or in plastic. Most of these organisms tend to be microbes and algae.

In a sentence

The plastic that can float for years on ocean currents will often pick up hitchhikers, creating a plastisphere of microbes and algae.

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Power Words

(for more about Power Words, click here)

ecosystem    A group of interacting living organisms — including microorganisms, plants and animals — and their physical environment within a particular climate. Examples include tropical reefs, rainforests, alpine meadows and polar tundra.

plastic    Any of a series of materials that are easily deformable; or synthetic materials that have been made from polymers (long strings of some building-block molecule) that tend to be lightweight, inexpensive and resistant to degradation.

plastisphere     An ecosystem that has evolved to live on plastic. The organisms in the plastisphere can include microbes and algae, but can also include animals such as mollusks that attach to plastic items. 

NGSS: 

  • MS-ESS3-3
  • MS-ESS3-4
  • HS-ESS3-4
  • HS-ESS3-6