//
you're reading...

Biological oceanography

Can Pacific Oysters handle a bit of microplastics in the lab? Shuck yeah!

Reference: Revel et al. 2020. “Realistic environmental exposure to microplastics does not induce biological effects in the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas. Marine Pollution Bulletin 150, e110627. https//doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2019.110627

Microplastics in the oceans

Plastic debris are a growing threat to the world’s oceans. Poor disposal practices lead to eight million tons of plastic ending up in our oceans each year. The problem is only made worse as larger pieces of plastic are weathered and broken down into smaller particles less than 5 millimeters in diameter, known as microplastics. Their small size and wide distribution make microplastics a challenge to clean up. Scientists are concerned that these microplastics might present a threat to marine organisms, especially to animals that eat other very small particles. Specifically, some bottom-dwelling animals, like oysters, feed by filtering small particles like algae or phytoplankton out of the water. Existing research suggests that oysters are filtering microplastics out of the water, but are the microplastics having any negative effects on the oysters?

Large and small plastic pieces are common in the oceans and can cause injury or death for marine animals. Image by the NOAA Marine Debris Program via Creative Commons

Understanding microplastics and oysters

In a recent paper scientists from France found evidence that, at least at low numbers, microplastics are unlikely to be much of a problem for Pacific oysters. Previously, studies have shown that exposure to microplastics can cause problems for oysters, such as interrupting their reproduction. But here’s the catch: oysters can actually select specific particles to eat and are capable of rejecting particles with no nutritional value in what’s called pseudofeces (“fake feces”). This behavior makes studying how microplastics might affect oysters more complicated.

In the ocean, microplastics vary in size, shape, and in kind of plastic they are made of. It’s difficult to study this range of microplastics in the laboratory, so many researchers pick one size, shape, or type. However, this doesn’t represent what animals experience in the ocean. To better represent the environment Pacific oysters inhabit, the scientists ground a mixture of polyethylene and polypropylene plastics into varying shapes and sizes.

Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) live on the seafloor and filter large quantities of water to eat small particles. Image source: Wikimedia Creative Commons

 

Oysters exposed to microplastics

During the experiment, Pacific oysters were kept in aquaria and given a daily dose in their water (high, medium, low) of microplastics for 10 days, then allowed to feed normally for another 10 days. Researchers then measured the number of microplastics found in oysters or their feces and checked for possible health issues in the oysters.

 

No negative effects, but is this the whole story?

Researchers found no accumulation of microplastics in oyster tissues, but microplastics were seen in oyster feces. After the additional 10 days of normal feeding, however, there were no microplastics in either the animals themselves or in their feces. Because the microplastics were in feces but not tissues, it appears that these oysters were able to quickly eliminate microplastics. The microplastics also did not have a visible impact on oyster health over this short period of time.

These results tell us microplastics pose a limited threat to Pacific oysters, but there are still a lot of questions to answer. For example, the study did not address exposure to microplastics over a long period of time, as would be expected for oysters in the open ocean. Microplastics can also be associated with chemicals or pollutants, which might cause health problems even if the microplastics themselves do not.

Either way, we should be conscious of our contributions to the global plastic problem. While oysters may be able to manage low concentrations of microplastics, the 8 million tons of plastic entering the oceans each year are causing serious problems for ocean ecosystems and other animals. There are plenty of steps we can take to reduce our plastic use, such as bringing reusable shopping bags, being conscious of buying single use plastic products, and advocating for better recycling programs. While some of these initiatives are more difficult in the COVID-19 era, there are always ways to reduce plastic waste.

 

EPA- Trash Free Waters: Ten Ways to Unpackage Your Life

Earth Day 2020: End Plastic Pollution

 

Discussion

No comments yet.

Post a Comment

Instagram

  • by oceanbites 4 days ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 1 month ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Feeling a bit flattened by the week? So are these summer flounder larvae. Fun fact: flounder larvae start out with their eyes set like normal fish, but as they grow one of their eyes migrates to meet the other and
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Have you seen a remote working setup like this? This is a photo from one of our Oceanbites team members Anne Hartwell. “A view from inside the control can of an underwater robot we used to explore the deep parts
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com