Ingestion of microplastics by fishes of an estuarine trophic chain in the Western Atlantic

, Justino Anne, Lenoble Veronique, Pelage Latifa, Ferreira Guilherme, Passarone Rafaela, Frédou Thierry, Frédou Flávia.

Marine ecosystems are reported to be contaminated by microplastics (¿ 5 mm), whereas the ecological mechanisms involved in the ingestion of debris by marine organisms are relatively unknown. This study explores an estuarine trophic chain, in a tropical ecosystem, aiming at understanding the patterns responsible for the different ingestion rates of plastic debris observed in three fish species (a predator and two of its main prey). A total of 82 fishes were collected through the local fishery, 30 individuals of Centropomus undecimalis (Piscivore), 21 of Bardiella ronchus (Zoobenthivore) and 31 of Gobionellus stomatus (Detritivore). For secure assessment of microplastic contamination in the digestive tracts of fishes, a digestion protocol was applied with the implementation of procedural blanks. Ingestion of microplastic differed significantly considering the trophic level. C. undecimalis is the most contaminated species (3.3 ± 2.9 MPs fish-1) (77% FO), followed by G. stomatus (1.7 ± 1.5 MPs fish-1) (74% FO) and B. ronchus (1.2 ± 1.3 MPs fish-1) (67% FO). Additionally, the length of MPs ingested varied according to the species. G. stomatus (1.7 ± 2.3 mm fish-1) ingested the longest MPs, followed by B. ronchus (0.8 ± 0.7 mm fish-1) and C. undecimalis (0.5 ± 0.6 mm fish-1). Regarding the types of MPs ingested by fishes, most were fibres (47%), beads (40%) and fragments (13%), and varied between the species, C. undecimalis (68% beads, 28% fibres and 4% fragments), B. ronchus (23% beads, 62% fibres and 15% fragments), and G. stomatus (4% of beads, 71% of fibres and 25% of fragments). Our findings suggest that piscivores fish are more susceptible to be contaminated by microplastics since the ingestion rates increased with the trophic level. Our study also highlights a useful protocol of gut digestion applied for estuarine organisms, which can be replicated to other similar species and ecosystems.

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