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Here’s what you’re really swallowing when you get a mouthful of saltwater at the beach

Time spent on the beach is a great way to relax and recharge. Taking a dip in the vastness of the salty ocean not only leaves us feeling cooled off, but rejuvenated, too. I don’t want to stomp anyone’s beach buzz, but the next time you’re swimming in the great blue, consider keeping your mouth shut.

New science says that when our splashing and paddling gets seawater in our mouths, the salt taste may be the least of our concerns.

There’s a lot more floating around in ocean water than meets the human eye. Recently, photographer David Littschwager captured the actual contents of ocean water in a way that allows us to see them. Littschwager did this by magnifying a shot of a small sample of seawater he collected off the coast of Kona, Hawaii. As it turns out, there’s quite a bit to see.

Take a look at the photograph below to see for yourself. The shot is of Littschwager’s sample seawater, magnified 25 times. In the photo, you see an array of zooplankton, bacteria, larvae, and (wait for it) worms.

Scientists say that among the things we ingest when we swallow a mouthful of ocean water are things like crab larvae; fish eggs; marine worms; and chaetognaths, a predatory plankton that is capable of injecting paralytic venom. Yikes.

For Littschwager’s photograph, the magnification was two times life size so we get a good glimpse of what we may be gulping. The small sample just covered the bottom of a 60mm petri dish, which translates into about 15 drops of water. Just from this one tiny sample, there’s a lot to be found.

I don’t know about you, but inadvertently snacking on microscopic sea worms and bacteria isn’t part of my vacation plans. I’m not saying I’ll cancel this summer’s beach trip, but I’ll keep an eye on my mouth, and keep it shut.

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