Microplastic ingestion decreases energy reserves in marine worms
Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.The final version is available from Elsevier via the DOI in this record.
The indiscriminate disposal of plastic to the environment is of concern. Microscopic plastic litter (<5 mm diameter; 'microplastic') is increasing in abundance in the marine environment, originating from the fragmentation of plastic items and from industry and personal-care products . On highly impacted beaches, microplastic concentrations (<1mm) can reach 3% by weight, presenting a global conservation issue . Microplastics are a novel substrate for the adherence of hydrophobic contaminants , deposition of eggs , and colonization by unique bacterial assemblages . Ingestion by indiscriminate deposit-feeders has been reported, yet physical impacts remain understudied . Here, we show that deposit-feeding marine worms maintained in sediments spiked with microscopic unplasticised polyvinylchloride (UPVC) at concentrations overlapping those in the environment had significantly depleted energy reserves by up to 50% (Figure 1). Our results suggest that depleted energy reserves arise from a combination of reduced feeding activity, longer gut residence times of ingested material and inflammation.
This work was funded by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs; 1-SW-P-N21-000-031-DN-A1-05102. We thank Peter Splatt for SEM imaging assistance, Professor Stuart Bearhop for invaluable comments on the manuscript and Dr. Adil Bakir for UPVC chemistry analyses.
Vol. 23 (23), pp. R1031 - R1033
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