Organic or junk food? Microplastic contamination in Antarctic krill and salps

Microplastics (MP) have been reported in Southern Ocean (SO), where they are likely to encounter Antarctic zooplankton and enter pelagic food webs. Here we assess the presence of MP within Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) and salps (Salpa thompsoni) and quantify their abundance and type by micro-Fourier transform infrared microscopy. MP were found in both species, with fibres being more abundant than fragments (krill: 56.25% and salps: 22.32% of the total MP). Polymer identification indicated MP originated from both local and distant sources. Our findings prove how in situ MP ingestion from these organisms is a real and ongoing process in the SO. MP amount was higher in krill (2.13 ± 0.26 MP ind−1) than salps (1.38 ± 0.42 MP ind−1), while MP size extracted from krill (130 ± 30 µm) was significantly lower than MP size from salps (330 ± 50 µm). We suggest that differences between abundance and size of MP ingested by these two species may be related to their food strategies, their ability to fragment MP as well as different human pressures within the collection areas of the study region. First comparative field-based evidence of MP in both krill and salps, two emblematic zooplankton species of the SO marine ecosystems, underlines that Antarctic marine ecosystems may be particularly sensitive to plastic pollution.


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Authors: Wilkie Johnston, Laura, Bergami, Elisa ORCIDORCID record for Elisa Bergami, Rowlands, Emily, Manno, Clara ORCIDORCID record for Clara Manno

On this site: Clara Manno, Elisa Bergami, Emily Rowlands, Laura Wilkie Johnston
29 March, 2023
Royal Society Open Science / 10
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