Over the past decade, microscopic plastic debris, known as microplastics, emerged as a contaminant of concern in marine and freshwater ecosystems. Although regularly detected in aquatic environments, the toxicity of those synthetic particles is not well understood. To address this, we investigated whether the exposure to microplastics adversely affects the amphipod Gammarus pulex, a key freshwater invertebrate.
Juvenile (6–9 mm) and adult (12–17 mm) individuals were exposed to irregular, fluorescent polyethylene terephthalate fragments (PET, 10–150 μm; 0.8–4,000 particles mL−1) for 24 h. Results show that body burden after 24 h depends on the dose and age of G. pulex with juveniles ingesting more microplastics than adults. After chronic exposure over 48 d, microplastics did not significantly affect survival, development (molting), metabolism (glycogen, lipid storage) and feeding activity of G. pulex.
This demonstrates that even high concentrations of PET particles did not negatively interfere with the analyzed endpoints. These results contradict previous research on marine crustaceans. Differences may result from variations in the exposure regimes (e.g., duration, particle concentrations), plastic characteristics (e.g., type, size, shape, additives) as well as the species-specific morphological, physiological and behavioral traits. As a detritivorous shredder G. pulex is adapted to feed on non-digestible materials and might, therefore, be less sensitive towards exposure to synthetic particles. Accordingly, we argue that the autecology needs to be taken into account and that research should focus on identifying traits that render species susceptible to microplastic exposure.
Amphipods, Body burden, Ecotoxicology, Effects, Polymers, Toxicity
Annkatrin Weber, Christian Scherer, Nicole Brennholt, Georg Reifferscheid, Martin Wagner (2018): PET microplastics do not negatively affect the survival, development, metabolism and feeding activity of the freshwater invertebrate Gammarus pulex. Environmental Pollution 234: 181-189