Quantcast
Animals

Microplastics Are Killing Baby Fish, New Study Finds

Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden have found that young fish basically like eating microplastics as much as teenagers like eating fast food.

For the study, published this week the journal Science, European perch embryos and larvae from the Baltic Sea were placed into lab aquariums with varying levels of polystyrene microplastics, including concentrations currently seen in nature.

Alarmingly, the researchers discovered that larval perch living in high concentrations of microplastic particles preferred to eat plastic over plankton, which are their natural food sources.

“This is the first time an animal has been found to preferentially feed on plastic particles, and is cause for concern,” Peter Eklöv, co-author of the study, told the Guardian.

Lead author Dr. Oona Lonnstedt described that the fish were drawn to the plastic over real food.

"They all had access to zooplankton and yet they decided to just eat plastic in that treatment. It seems to be a chemical or physical cue that the plastic has, that triggers a feeding response in fish," Lonnstedt told BBC News.

"They are basically fooled into thinking it's a high-energy resource that they need to eat a lot of. I think of it as unhealthy fast food for teenagers, and they are just stuffing themselves."

Also in the study, the researchers found that young perch living in high concentrations of microplastics were smaller and less active compared to fish reared in average concentrations of microplastic particles. These fish also tended to ignore the chemical signals that would normally warn them of predators.

When predators were introduced into the lab tanks, the perch exposed to microplastics were eaten by pike four times more quickly than their naturally-reared relatives. All of the plastic-exposed fish in the study were dead within 48 hours, the Guardian noted.

According to the study, exposure to microplastics also reduced rates of hatching and development into maturity. About 96 percent of the eggs successfully hatched in environments without microplastics, compared to 81 percent for those exposed to large quantities.

Roughly 8 million tons of plastic gets dumped into the world’s oceans every year. One study warned that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

Because plastics are non-biodegradable, when large pieces enter our waterways, they eventually break down into smaller and smaller pieces, or microplastics. Incidentally, these tiny pieces of trash make up the bulk of the plastic soup in our waters, with the little pieces found in ice cores, across the seafloor, vertically throughout the ocean and on every beach worldwide. Fish and plankton often mistake these particles for food.

Lönnstedt warned that "if early life-history stages of other species are similarly affected by microplastics, and this translates to increased mortality rates, the effects on aquatic ecosystems could be profound.”

As EcoWatch mentioned previously, microplastics are also very absorbent, meaning they pick up the chemicals it floats in. So we don’t just have to worry about the plastic itself that the fish are eating but all of the contaminants in that plastic as well. That goes for us, too, if we eat a fish that’s eaten plastic particles.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Could Pixar’s ‘Finding Dory’ Have an Adverse Effect on Coral Reefs?

New Federal Report Shows Dimock Water Was Unsafe to Drink After All

35% of Northern and Central Great Barrier Reef Is Dead or Dying

10 Popular Dive Sites Closed in Thailand Due to Coral Bleaching Crisis

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
Pexels

Cosmos Offers Clues to the Fate of Humans on Earth

By Marlene Cimons

Astrophysicist Adam Frank sees climate change through a cosmic lens. He believes our present civilization isn't the first to burn up its resources—and won't be the last. Moreover, he thinks it's possible the same burnout fate already might have befallen alien worlds. That's why he says the current conversation about climate change is all wrong. "We shouldn't be talking about saving the planet, because the Earth will go on without us," he said. "We should be talking about saving ourselves."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Chicago skyline on April 20, 2017. Chris Favero / CC BY-SA 2.0

Big Cities, Bright Lights: Ranking the Worst Light Pollution on Earth

By Dipika Kadaba

The amount of artificial lighting is steadily increasing every year around the planet. It's a cause for celebration in remote villages in Africa and the Indian sub-continent that recently gained access to electricity for the first time, but it is also harming the health and well-being of residents of megacities elsewhere that continue to get bigger and brighter every year.

Health impacts of this artificial illumination after daylight hours range from depression to cancer, including a range of sleep disorders.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
velkr0 / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Texas Supreme Court Rules Cities Cannot Ban Plastic Bags

The Texas Supreme Court struck down the city of Laredo's plastic bag ban—a decision that will likely overturn similar bans in about a dozen other cities, including Austin, Fort Stockton and Port Aransas.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Ryan Zinke visits Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota on May 25. Sherman Hogue / U.S. Dept. of the Interior

Report: Trump Admin. Suppressing Media Access of Government Scientists

A new Trump administration protocol requires U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists to run interview requests with the Department of the Interior, its parent agency, before speaking to journalists, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The move is a departure from past media practices that allowed government scientists to quickly respond to journalists' inquiries, according to unnamed USGS employees interviewed by the Times.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Icebergs calving from an ice shelf in West Antarctica. NASA / GSFC / Jefferson Beck / CC BY-SA 2.0

Good News From Antarctica: Rising Bedrock Could Save Vulnerable Ice Sheet

After last week's disturbing news that ice melt in Antarctica has tripled in the last five years, another study published Thursday offers some surprising good news for the South Pole and its vulnerable West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS).

The study, published in Science by an international research team, found that the bedrock below the WAIS is rising, a process known as "uplift," at record rates as melting ice removes weight, potentially stabilizing the ice sheet that scientists feared would be lost to climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
Soybeans with cupped leaves, a symptom of dicamba injury. University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Dicamba Damage Roars Back for Third Season in a Row

University weed scientists have reported roughly 383,000 acres of soybean injured by a weedkiller called dicamba so far in 2018, according to University of Missouri plant sciences professor, Kevin Bradley.

Dicamba destroys mostly everything in its path except the crops that are genetically engineered (GE) to resist it. The drift-prone chemical can be picked up by the wind and land on neighboring non-target fields. Plants exposed to the chemical are left wrinkled, cupped or stunted in growth.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
Memphis Meats

FDA Takes First Steps to Regulating Lab-Grown Meat

By Dan Nosowitz

Lab-grown meat—also known as cultured meat or in vitro meat—has long been enticing for its potential environmental, social and economic benefits.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Scott Pruitt speaking at meeting at the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC, on Jan. 17. Lance Cheung / USDA

Breaking: Sierra Club Demands Pruitt’s Emails After Only 1 Disclosed by EPA

As part of ongoing litigation, the Sierra Club has demanded that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) search Scott Pruitt's personal email accounts for work-related emails, or certify clearly and definitively that the administrator has never used personal email for work purposes. The demand comes on the heels of a successfully litigated Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's email and other communications with all persons and parties outside the executive branch. These facts were first reported in Politico early this morning.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!