Studies have shown that mussels are beginning to lose control over microplastics, which is the latest example of the destructive effects of plastic pollution on marine flora and fauna.
When blue mussels were exposed to non-biodegradable microplastics for 52 days, they lost about half of their ability to adhere to surfaces. The weakening of their attachment appears to be the result of the creation of a much smaller number of descending threads, fine fibers produced by mussels, which allow them to attach themselves to stones, ropes and other underwater environments.
A study conducted in the Marine Laboratory Portaferry in Northern Ireland and published in the journal Environmental Pollution is one of the first to study the effects of microplastics on marine organisms.
Microplastics have been found around the world in a wide variety of environments, from tap water and seawater to flying insects, and are likely to even be in the air we breathe. Last year, a study for the first time discovered microplastics in human faeces.
Some of them are microplastic, which were specially made, for example, in the form of microballs in cosmetics, but most of them are the result of the destruction of larger pieces of plastic garbage. There are a huge number of sources of microplastics – for example, synthetic clothes may shed tiny fibers during washing, making it difficult to remove them from use.
If the mussels lose their grip in the wild as well as in the study, the effects will be felt outside the shellfish population. Mussels stick together and form reefs that help them to multiply and protect many other marine animals and plants, playing an important role in the marine ecosystem.
Dannyel Green, senior biology professor at the University of England, Ruskin, who led the research, said: “Persistence is vital for mussels to form and maintain reefs without shifting hydrodynamic forces. Decreasing the number of downstream streams in the wild can lead to a cascading effect on biodiversity, as well as lower yields in aquaculture, since mussels are more likely to be washed away by waves or strong tides. ”
Researchers have found that microplastics also elicit a strong immune response in mussels and affect their metabolism. They measured the vertical force needed to force the mussel out of its attached position, and found that for those who were exposed to biodegradable microplastics for 52 days, the required force was only half of that required in the control sample without such exposure. There were also effects from exposure to biodegradable plastics, but they were less noticeable.