The fate of microplastics in the marine isopod Idotea emarginata

Reinhard.Saborowski [ at ]


Plastic pollution is an emerging global threat for marine wildlife. Many species of birds, reptiles and fishes are directly impaired by plastics as they can get entangled in ropes and drown or they can ingest plastic fragments which, in turn, may clog their stomachs and guts. Microplastics of less than 1 mm can be ingested by small invertebrates but their fate in the digestive organs and their effects on the animals are yet not well understood. We embedded fluorescent microplastics in artificial agarose-based food and offered the food to marine isopods, Idotea emarginata. The isopods did not distinguish between food with and food without microplastics. Upon ingestion, the microplastics were present in the stomach and in the gut but not in the tubules of the midgut gland which is the principal organ of enzyme-secretion and nutrient resorption. The feces contained the same concentration of micro-plastics as the food which indicates that no accumulation of microplastics happens during the gut passage. Long-term bioassays of six weeks showed no distinct effects of continu¬ous micro-plastic consumption on mortality, growth, and intermolt duration. I. emarginata are able to prevent intrusion of particles even smaller than 1 µm into the midgut gland which is facilitated by the complex structure of the stomach including a fine filter system. It separates the midgut gland tubules from the stomach and allows only the passage of fluids and chyme. Our results indicate that micro¬plastics, as administered in the experi¬ments, do not clog the digestive organs of isopods and do not have adverse effects on their life history parameters.

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DOI 10.1021/es501385y

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Hämer, J. , Gutow, L. , Köhler, A. and Saborowski, R. (2014): The fate of microplastics in the marine isopod Idotea emarginata , Environmental Science and Technology, 48 , pp. 13451-13458 . doi: 10.1021/es501385y

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