While pollutant-coated microplastics can accumulate in fish, the ingestion of these pollutants doesn’t seem to influence their behaviour, a new study from Macquarie University has found.
Animals often first respond to pollution by changing their behaviour.
There is concern in the scientific community that the increasing level of microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic often found in cosmetics and clothing – in marine environments could accumulate in the food chain.
The Macquarie University study compared the behaviour of gobies (a small coastal fish species) on a diet contaminated with microplastics with others consuming microplastic-free food.
The researchers studied the inclination of the fish to take risks and explore, which can affect how an animal finds food and avoids predators.
These behaviours can ultimately affect how well a species survives in the long run.
“Given that hormones can influence behavioural traits and the chemicals associated with microplastics can disrupt hormones, it was a surprising result to find that this form of pollutant didn’t affect the personality traits of these fish,” said Associate Professor Culum Brown.
The findings suggest that microplastics are not providing additional chemicals above those that are already present in the environment and diet of these fish.
But it may not be the same for us humans.
The researchers point out that microplastics provide another route for chemical pollutants to move through our food chain, with implications not just for marine ecosystems but also for human health.
Read more about the study’s findings here. Story credit: Macquarie University newsroom.
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