Impact of polyester and cotton microfibers on growth and sublethal biomarkers in juvenile mussels

Chris Walkinshaw, Trevor J. Tolhurst, Penelope K. Lindeque, Richard C. Thompson, Matthew Cole

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Anthropogenic microfibres are a prevalent, persistent and globally distributed form of marine debris. Evidence of microfibre ingestion has been demonstrated in a range of organisms, including Mytilus spp. (mussels), but the extent of any impacts on these organisms are poorly understood. This study investigates, for the first time, the effect of exposing juvenile mussels to polyester and cotton microfibres at environmentally relevant concentrations (both current and predicted future scenarios) over a chronic timescale (94 days). Sublethal biomarkers included growth rate, respiration rate and clearance rate. Mussels were exposed to polyester (median length 149 µm) and cotton (median length 132 µm) microfibres in three treatments: polyester (~ 8 fibres L−1), polyester (~ 80 fibres L−1) and cotton (~ 80 fibres L−1). Mussels exposed to 80 polyester or cotton microfibres L−1 exhibited a decrease in growth rate of 35.6% (polyester) and 18.7% (cotton), with mussels exposed to ~ 80 polyester microfibres L−1 having a significantly lower growth rate than the control population (P < 0.05). This study demonstrates that polyester microfibres have the potential to adversely impact upon mussel growth rates in realistic future scenarios, which may have compounding effects throughout the marine ecosystem and implications for commercial viability.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalMicroplastics and Nanoplastics
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2023

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