How microplastics are affecting marine organisms

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How microplastics are affecting marine organisms

Coastal marine organisms are hit hard by pollution and global climate change stress. Perhaps a result of publication bias, studies often focus on species that are negatively impacted. However, to better understand how the ecological communities would response to these human-induced stress, it is equally important to study organisms that are seeming pollutant tolerant.

Invasive species are “expats” that have created successful populations in and in turn adversely affect the foreign habitat they colonize. The North American native slipper limpet, Crepdiula onyx, is one such species found in Asia. A group of scientists at the Chan Lab of the Division of Life Science, HKUST, uses this species as a model organism to test if these invaders are also “immune” to an emergent pollutant: microplastics. These <5mm plastic pieces are of increasing concerns as it account for over 90% of floating plastic in the ocean. The group reported that the snails growth and development were unaffected by the presence of microplastics at environmentally relevant concentration -- suggesting that these little invaders may further threaten other marine organisms that are less resilient.

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