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Limnology and Oceanography Letters

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Mole crabs -- Oregon -- Pacific Coast -- Effect of microplastics on, Microplastics -- Environmental aspects, Coastal ecology


Microplastics are ubiquitous in marine systems; however, knowledge of the effects of these particles on marine fauna is limited. Ocean-borne plastic debris accumulates in littoral ecosystems worldwide, and invertebrate infauna inhabiting these systems can ingest small plastic particles and fibers, mistaking them for food. We examined the effect of microplastic fibers on physiological and reproductive outcomes in a nearshore organism by exposing Pacific mole crabs (Emerita analoga) to environmentally relevant concentrations of microsized polypropylene rope fibers. We compared adult gravid female crab mortality, reproductive success, and embryonic developmental rates between microfiber-exposed and control crabs. Pacific mole crabs exposed to polypropylene rope had increased adult crab mortality, and decreased retention of egg clutches, causing variability in embryonic development rates. These effects of microplastic ingestion on a nearshore prey species have implications for predators such as surf perf and shore birds, as plastic use, and resultant microplastic presence in nearshore environments increases. Microplastics are ubiquitous in marine and sandy beach environments, posing a significant

threat to the marine organisms that reside therein. The most predominant classification of microplastics found have been microfibers. Although a number of biological effects of microplastics have been measured, with documented effects on growth, little research has examined how microplastic fibers affect reproductive output and subsequent development of offspring. We examined the effects of exposure to microfibers on adult mortality, reproductive output, and embryonic development of the filter feeding Pacific mole crab (E. analoga), a dominant infaunal organism on sandy beaches. We demonstrate the effects of microplastic ingestion on mole crab mortality and embryonic development, filling a gap in the current knowledge on the impact of microplastics.


© 2019 The Authors. Limnology and Oceanography Letters published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



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