Microplastics in marine mammals stranded around the British coast: ubiquitous but transitory?

SE Nelms*, J Barnett, A Brownlow, NJ Davison, Rob Deaville, TS Galloway, PK Lindeque, D Santillo, BJ Godley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Plastic pollution represents a pervasive and increasing threat to marine ecosystems worldwide and there is a need to better understand the extent to which microplastics (<5 mm) are ingested by high trophic-level taxa, such as marine mammals. Here, we perform a comprehensive assessment by examining whole digestive tracts of 50 individuals from 10 species whilst operating strict contamination controls. Microplastics were ubiquitous with particles detected in every animal examined. The relatively low number per animal (mean = 5.5) suggests these particles are transitory. Stomachs, however, were found to contain a greater number than intestines, indicating a potential site of temporary retention. The majority of particles were fibres (84%) while the remaining 16% was fragments. Particles were mainly blue and black (42.5% and 26.4%) in colour and Nylon was the most prevalent (60%) polymer type. A possible relationship was found between the cause of death category and microplastic abundance, indicating that animals that died due to infectious diseases had a slightly higher number of particles than those that died of trauma and other drivers of mortality. It is not possible, however, to draw any firm conclusions on the potential biological significance of this observation and further research is required to better understand the potential chronic effects of microplastic exposure on animal health, particularly as marine mammals are widely considered important sentinels for the implications of pollution for the marine environment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1075
JournalScientific Reports
Volume9
Early online date31 Jan 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPrint publication - 31 Jan 2019

Fingerprint

marine mammal
coast
animal
pollution
cause of death
infectious disease
marine ecosystem
trophic level
marine environment
polymer
plastic
particle
mortality

Keywords

  • Animal physiology
  • Conservation biology

Cite this

Nelms, SE ; Barnett, J ; Brownlow, A ; Davison, NJ ; Deaville, Rob ; Galloway, TS ; Lindeque, PK ; Santillo, D ; Godley, BJ. / Microplastics in marine mammals stranded around the British coast: ubiquitous but transitory?. In: Scientific Reports. 2019 ; Vol. 9.
@article{9230e45763c24d49bad0d730c7b74612,
title = "Microplastics in marine mammals stranded around the British coast: ubiquitous but transitory?",
abstract = "Plastic pollution represents a pervasive and increasing threat to marine ecosystems worldwide and there is a need to better understand the extent to which microplastics (<5 mm) are ingested by high trophic-level taxa, such as marine mammals. Here, we perform a comprehensive assessment by examining whole digestive tracts of 50 individuals from 10 species whilst operating strict contamination controls. Microplastics were ubiquitous with particles detected in every animal examined. The relatively low number per animal (mean = 5.5) suggests these particles are transitory. Stomachs, however, were found to contain a greater number than intestines, indicating a potential site of temporary retention. The majority of particles were fibres (84{\%}) while the remaining 16{\%} was fragments. Particles were mainly blue and black (42.5{\%} and 26.4{\%}) in colour and Nylon was the most prevalent (60{\%}) polymer type. A possible relationship was found between the cause of death category and microplastic abundance, indicating that animals that died due to infectious diseases had a slightly higher number of particles than those that died of trauma and other drivers of mortality. It is not possible, however, to draw any firm conclusions on the potential biological significance of this observation and further research is required to better understand the potential chronic effects of microplastic exposure on animal health, particularly as marine mammals are widely considered important sentinels for the implications of pollution for the marine environment.",
keywords = "Animal physiology, Conservation biology",
author = "SE Nelms and J Barnett and A Brownlow and NJ Davison and Rob Deaville and TS Galloway and PK Lindeque and D Santillo and BJ Godley",
year = "2019",
month = "1",
day = "31",
doi = "10.1038/s41598-018-37428-3",
language = "English",
volume = "9",
journal = "Scientific Reports",
issn = "2045-2322",
publisher = "Nature Research",

}

Microplastics in marine mammals stranded around the British coast: ubiquitous but transitory? / Nelms, SE; Barnett, J; Brownlow, A; Davison, NJ; Deaville, Rob; Galloway, TS; Lindeque, PK; Santillo, D; Godley, BJ.

In: Scientific Reports, Vol. 9, 1075, 31.01.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Microplastics in marine mammals stranded around the British coast: ubiquitous but transitory?

AU - Nelms, SE

AU - Barnett, J

AU - Brownlow, A

AU - Davison, NJ

AU - Deaville, Rob

AU - Galloway, TS

AU - Lindeque, PK

AU - Santillo, D

AU - Godley, BJ

PY - 2019/1/31

Y1 - 2019/1/31

N2 - Plastic pollution represents a pervasive and increasing threat to marine ecosystems worldwide and there is a need to better understand the extent to which microplastics (<5 mm) are ingested by high trophic-level taxa, such as marine mammals. Here, we perform a comprehensive assessment by examining whole digestive tracts of 50 individuals from 10 species whilst operating strict contamination controls. Microplastics were ubiquitous with particles detected in every animal examined. The relatively low number per animal (mean = 5.5) suggests these particles are transitory. Stomachs, however, were found to contain a greater number than intestines, indicating a potential site of temporary retention. The majority of particles were fibres (84%) while the remaining 16% was fragments. Particles were mainly blue and black (42.5% and 26.4%) in colour and Nylon was the most prevalent (60%) polymer type. A possible relationship was found between the cause of death category and microplastic abundance, indicating that animals that died due to infectious diseases had a slightly higher number of particles than those that died of trauma and other drivers of mortality. It is not possible, however, to draw any firm conclusions on the potential biological significance of this observation and further research is required to better understand the potential chronic effects of microplastic exposure on animal health, particularly as marine mammals are widely considered important sentinels for the implications of pollution for the marine environment.

AB - Plastic pollution represents a pervasive and increasing threat to marine ecosystems worldwide and there is a need to better understand the extent to which microplastics (<5 mm) are ingested by high trophic-level taxa, such as marine mammals. Here, we perform a comprehensive assessment by examining whole digestive tracts of 50 individuals from 10 species whilst operating strict contamination controls. Microplastics were ubiquitous with particles detected in every animal examined. The relatively low number per animal (mean = 5.5) suggests these particles are transitory. Stomachs, however, were found to contain a greater number than intestines, indicating a potential site of temporary retention. The majority of particles were fibres (84%) while the remaining 16% was fragments. Particles were mainly blue and black (42.5% and 26.4%) in colour and Nylon was the most prevalent (60%) polymer type. A possible relationship was found between the cause of death category and microplastic abundance, indicating that animals that died due to infectious diseases had a slightly higher number of particles than those that died of trauma and other drivers of mortality. It is not possible, however, to draw any firm conclusions on the potential biological significance of this observation and further research is required to better understand the potential chronic effects of microplastic exposure on animal health, particularly as marine mammals are widely considered important sentinels for the implications of pollution for the marine environment.

KW - Animal physiology

KW - Conservation biology

U2 - 10.1038/s41598-018-37428-3

DO - 10.1038/s41598-018-37428-3

M3 - Article

C2 - 30705316

VL - 9

JO - Scientific Reports

JF - Scientific Reports

SN - 2045-2322

M1 - 1075

ER -