Scientists of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (UK) recently demonstrated that marine plankton is able to ingest microplastics. Plankton being at the base of the food chain, this pollution affects us directly.
The video shows for the first time that planktonik organisms can ingest microplastics, proving once again the harmfulness of plastic pollution.
Plankton and plastic
In this study, scientists have filmed copepods, a planktonic crustacean family, under a microscope for 3 hours in water containing small polystyren balls of 7 and 30 micrometers. The results bring to light the ingestion of microplastics by zooplankton.
These tiny crustaceans usually feed on suspended algae they capture thanks to a small stream they create with their legs. Ordinarily, they are able to select the algae they feed on with chemical and tactile receptors. However, it is not infallible. The ingestion of microplastics can have many harmful impacts on zooplankton. According to the authors, it could lead to a decrease of their consumption of alguae, meaning lower chances of survival and reproduction. Moreover, plastic debris can contain toxic substances, which, if they are ingested by plankton, may end up in the food chain. With billions of plastic wastes ending up in the oceans each year, the impact on marine wildlife is more and more concerning.