Microplastics affect sand crabs' mortality and reproduction, PSU study finds

January 17, 2020

Sand crabs, a key species in beach ecosystems, were found to have increased adult mortality and decreased reproductive success when exposed to plastic microfibers, according to a new Portland State University study.

Dorothy Horn, a Ph.D. candidate in PSU's Earth, Environment and Society program, examined the effects of exposure to microfibers on adult mortality, reproductive output and embryonic development of the sand crab, a dominant organism on sandy beaches from British Columbia to Baja California, Mexico. Sand crabs, which eat by filtering small particles from the water, are considered indicator species because their health reflects the health of the ecosystem.

"When pollutants affect sand crabs, it's also affecting most organisms around it in that ecosystem," Horn said. "We don't eat them, but they're a bright blinking light for 'There's a problem in this area.'"

Horn found microplastics in all the sand samples analyzed from 19 beaches along the Oregon coast. She then conducted a lab experiment to mimic the concentrations of microfibers the crabs would be exposed to on the beach.

The study found that with an increasing number of microplastic fibers internalized, crab mortality increased while the number of days that a crab held live/viable eggs decreased. Exposure to microplastics also caused variability in a crab's embryonic development rates.

Horn said sand crabs are prey for shorebirds, nearshore fish and some marine mammals, and their increased mortality and decreased reproductive performance following exposure to microplastics could have potential effects on species higher up on the food chain.

"We've proved it's causing them harm, and it can have harmful effects on these other organisms," Horn said.
-end-
The study's findings were recently published in the journal Limnology and Oceanography Letters. Horn's coauthors included Elise Granek, a professor of environmental science and management at PSU, and Clare Steele, assistant professor of environmental science and resource management at California State University Channel Islands.

The study was supported by Horn's National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Portland State University

Related Embryonic Development Articles from Brightsurf:

Unraveling a mystery surrounding embryonic cells
Last year, researchers at the University of California, Riverside, identified the early origins of neural crest cells -- embryonic cells in vertebrates that travel throughout the body and generate many cell types -- in chick embryos.

Organoids produce embryonic heart
Bioengineers at EPFL have used organoids - tiny lab-grown organs - to mimic the early development of the heart in the mouse embryo.

Embryonic heart development: Unprecedented insight from 4D OCT
Thanks to innovations in light-based technology, fresh insights are now available into the biomechanics of mammalian cardiogenesis--and in particular, the pumping dynamics of the mammalian tubular embryonic heart.

CNIC researchers discover a system essential for limb formation during embryonic development
Scientists at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC) have identified a system that tells embryonic cells where they are in a developing organ

Unique insight into development of the human brain: Model of the early embryonic brain
Stem cell researchers from the University of Copenhagen have designed a model of an early embryonic brain.

Disruption of glycine receptors to study embryonic development and brain function
Researchers from Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, University of Toyama, Yamagata University, Cairo University, RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences and Setsunan University joined forces to further study glycine receptors, particularly glycine receptor alpha-4 (Glra4), during development.

Unlocking the black box of embryonic development
Little is known about the molecular and cellular events that occur during early embryonic development in primate species.

Signaling waves determine embryonic fates
Embryonic stem cells begin to self-organize when they sense interacting waves of molecular signals that help them start -- and stop -- differentiating into patterns.

Shocking embryonic limbs into shape
In a new study published in EPJ E, Vincent Fleury and Ameya Vaishnavi Murukutla from Universite Paris Diderot, Paris, France use the stimulation of chicken embryos with electric shocks to propose a mechanism for vertebrate limb formation.

Using an embryonic pause to save the date
A date palm seedling can pause its development to boost its resilience before emerging into the harsh desert environment.

Read More: Embryonic Development News and Embryonic Development Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.