Rapid fragmentation of microplastics by the freshwater amphipod Gammarus duebeni (Lillj.)

, Mateos Cárdenas Alicia, O’halloran John, Van Pelt Frank, Jansen Marcel.

Microplastics have become ubiquitous in all environments. Yet, their environmental fate is still largely unknown. Plastic fragmentation is a key component of plastic degradation, which is mostly caused by abiotic processes over prolonged time scales. Here, it is shown that the freshwater amphipod Gammarus duebeni can rapidly fragment polyethylene microplastics, resulting in the formation of differently shaped and sized plastic fragments, including nanoplastics. Fragments comprised 65.7% of all observed microplastic particles accumulated in digestive tracts. Higher numbers of fragments were found in response to longer exposure times and/or higher microplastic oncentrations. Furthermore, the proportion of smaller plastic fragments was highest when food was present during the depuration process. It is concluded that G. duebeni can rapidly fragment polyethylene microplastics and that this is closely associated with the feeding process. These results highlight the crucial role, currently understudied, that biota may play in determining the fate of microplastics in aquatic ecosystems. DOI https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-69635-2

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