Ingestion of nanoplastics and microplastics by Pacific oyster larvae

Plastic debris is a prolific contaminant effecting freshwater and marine ecosystems across the globe. Of growing environmental concern are ‘microplastics’ and ‘nanoplastics’, encompassing tiny particles of plastic derived from manufacturing and macroplastic fragmentation. Pelagic zooplankton are susceptible to consuming microplastics, however the threat posed to larvae of commercially important bivalves is currently unknown. We exposed Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) larvae (3-24 d.p.f.) to polystyrene particles spanning 70 nm˗20 µm in size, including plastics with differing surface properties, and tested the impact of microplastics on larval feeding and growth. The frequency and magnitude of plastic ingestion over 24 hours varied by larval age and size of polystyrene particle (ANOVA, P<0.01), and surface properties of the plastic, with aminated particles ingested and retained more frequently (ANOVA, P<0.01). A strong, significant correlation between propensity for plastic consumption and plastic load per organism was identified (Spearmans, r=0.95, P<0.01). Exposure to 1 and 10 µm PS for up to 8 days had no significant effect on C. gigas feeding or growth at <100 microplastics mL-1. In conclusion, whilst micro- and nanoplastics were readily ingested by oyster larvae, exposure to plastic concentrations exceeding those observed in the marine environment resulted in no measurable effects on the development or feeding capacity of the larvae over the duration of the study.

Matthew Cole and Tamara S. Galloway, Environ. Sci. Technol., 49 (24), pp 14625–14632, 2015
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