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 ()
Sponsored
Christy Williams / WWF

Celebrating the Biggest Conservation Wins of 2017

It's been a big year for conservation.

Together we assured the world that the U.S. is still an ally in the fight against climate change through the We Are Still In movement, a coalition of more than 2,500 American leaders outside of the federal government who are still committed to meeting climate goals. WWF's activists met with legislators to voice their support for international conservation funding. And we ensured that Bhutan's vast and wildlife-rich areas remain protected forever through long-term funding.

Keep reading... Show less
Pexels

Cell Phone Radiation Risks: California Issues Groundbreaking Guidelines

By Olga Naidenko

This week, California officially issued groundbreaking guidelines advising cell phone users to keep phones away from their bodies and limit use when reception is weak. State officials caution that studies link radiation from long-term cell phone use to an increased risk of brain cancer, lower sperm counts and other health problems, and note that children's developing brains could be at greater risk.

Keep reading... Show less

3 Extreme Weather Events in 2016 'Could Not Have Happened' Without Climate Change, Scientists Say

Three of 2016's extreme weather events would have been impossible without human-caused climate change, according to new research.

The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society published a collection of papers Wednesday focused on examining the effect of climate change on 27 extreme weather events last year. The research found that climate change was a "significant driver" in 21 of these weather disasters, and that three events—the temperatures making 2016 the hottest year on record, the heat wave over Asia in the spring, and a "blob" of extremely warm water in the Pacific—"could not have happened" without climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Alan Schmierer

These Butterflies Have Lawyers

By John R. Platt

Don't mess with Texas butterflies. They have lawyers.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Renewable Energy
The price of offshore wind energy has dropped significantly in recent years. Wikimedia Commons

Netherlands Launches Landmark Zero-Subsidy Wind Power Auction

The Netherlands has launched the world's first “zero subsidy" tender on Friday to build 700 megawatts of offshore wind. Shortly after the announcement, the country already found its first bidder.

Zero subsidy tenders have been labeled as a “game-changer" for the sector because it means that potential bidders would rely solely on wholesale electricity prices without financial aid from the government.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy
India is betting on a "green future" through clean energy and low carbon innovation. UK Department for International Development / Flickr

World's Largest Solar-Wind-Storage Plant Planned for India

A wind, solar and battery storage plant is being planned for the southeastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, which has faced power woes in recent months due to grid failure.

The renewable energy facility will consist of 120 megawatts of solar, 40 megawatts of wind, 20-40 megawatt-hours of battery backup and will be spread over 1,000 acres in the district of Anantapur.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

How Cities Can Meat the Climate Challenge

By Kari Hamerschlag and Christopher D. Cook

Addressing a crowd of mayors gathered in his hometown last week, former President Obama called on the "new faces of American leadership" on climate change to take swift action to spare our children and grandchildren from a climate catastrophe. Twenty-five U.S. mayors signed the "Chicago Charter," affirming a commitment from their cities to meet the Paris agreement target for greenhouse gas reductions by 2025.

Keep reading... Show less
Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska. Plants on the Arctic tundra absorb mercury from the air, then transfer it to soil when they die. Paxson Woelber / Flickr

Mercury From Industrialized Nations Is Polluting the Arctic—Here’s How It Gets There

By Daniel Obrist

Scientists have long understood that the Arctic is affected by mercury pollution, but know less about how it happens. Remote, cold and seemingly pristine, why is such an idyllic landscape so contaminated with this highly toxic metal?

I recently returned from a two-year research project in Alaska, where I led field research into this issue alongside fellow scientists from the University of Colorado; the University of Nevada's Desert Research Institute; the University of Toulouse and the Sorbonne University in France; and the Gas Technology Institute in Illinois.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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