Marine top predators are exposed to microplastics via their prey, study found

Microplastics can transfer up the food chain from fish to top predators, such as seals.


Microplastics are an across-the-board contamination of the marine condition that can be incidentally consumed by zooplankton, fish, and significantly bigger channel feeders, for example, whales.

Presently, out of the blue, researchers from the University of Exeter have demonstrated that microplastics inside fish can exchange to marine predators at the highest point of the evolved way of life.

Scientists observed scat (feces) from captive grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) and the digestive tracts of the wild-caught Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) the seals were fed upon.

One-third of the mackerel and half of the scat tests contained microplastics, a finding that exhibits a procedure known as a trophic exchange, whereby prey containing microplastics are devoured by predators and the engineered particles climb the nourishment web subsequently.

This procedure has already been seen in creatures that lower the food chain, for example, mussels and crabs. Yet this examination is the first to give proof of it happening in marine mammals.

Lead author Sarah Nelms, of PML’s Microplastics Research Group, said, “Our finding that microplastics can be passed from fish to marine top predators is something we’ve long thought was the case but, until now, lacked the evidence to back our theory up.”

“We have shown that trophic transfer is an indirect, yet potentially major, route of microplastic ingestion for these predators. By examining scat from captive animals and the digestive tracts of fish they were fed upon, we could eliminate the possibility that the seals were eating plastic directly and be sure that any microplastics we found in their scat came via the fish.”

The study is the first that demonstrates how microplastics can be transferred from prey to predator and therefore passed up through the food chain. Further work is expected to comprehend the degree to which microplastics are ingested by wild creatures and what impacts they may have on the creatures and biological communities.

Professor Brendan Godley, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus, said: “The world is awakening to the gravity of the plastic problem and the possible negative impacts of microplastics in the marine environment.

“We are pleased to be helping to build the framework of evidence that will allow us to understand how and where these impacts may be felt by marine life.”

The study is published online in the journal ScienceDirect and can be read here.


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