Microplastics becoming a major problem for mussels

Plastic pollution is potentially threatening the survival of mussels by causing them to lose their grip, according to a new study from Anglia Ruskin University.

The researchers from Anglia Ruskin University and the Portaferry Marine Laboratory in Northern Ireland found that blue mussels exposed to doses of non-biodegradable microplastics over a period of 52 days produced significantly fewer byssal threads, the thin fibres that help mussels attach themselves to rocks and ropes.

These byssal threads not only help mussels survive waves and strong tides and stay attached to their surroundings, but they also enable them to form extensive reefs that provide important habitats for other marine animals and plants, according to a press release.

The overall tenacity or attachment strength of mussels exposed to microplastics fell by 50 per cent compared to a control sample of mussels that were not exposed to microplastics.

“Tenacity if vital for mussels to form and maintain reefs without being dislodged by hydrodynamic force,” explained Dannielle Green, a senior lecturer in biology at Anglia Ruskin University. “A reduction in these byssal threads in the wild could lead to cascading impacts on biodiversity as well as reducing yields from aquaculture, as mussels are more likely to be washed away by waves or strong tides.

Green recommends better recycling and an overall reduction of both biodegradable and non-biodegradable plastic to help safeguard the marine environment.

Image credit: Travis via Flickr

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