It has been found that the small plastic particles afloat in waterways may harm fish larvae.
A study found that microplastic particles could direly affect fish larvae. The baby fish tended to transform their behavioral repertoire and show arrested development.
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The end result of these reactive changes was that the fish larvae died. Especially larval perch that came into contact with microplastic particles tended to eat them instead of their normal diet of zooplankton. Thus interference by mankind’s garbage has caused these fish to suffer like never before.
Microplastic particles are usually less than 5mm in size. Their origins are large plastic landfills that undergo fragmentation over the course of time. Also plastic pieces that are very small in size such as those found in personal care products may be included among these microplastics.
Most of these microscopic plastic particles reach the oceans via waterways. Slowly they accumulate in the regions and their concentration also increases.
The greatest concern today is that the buildup of these particles could lead to a disruption of marine ecosystems. However, our know-how regarding the exact impact of these particles on marine life remains limited at best.
Yet today after some research, the scientists are able to pinpoint these microplastics as the culprits in the death of marine life forms. The fish that are brought up in various gradations of microplastic pollution tend to hatch less eggs and also show anomalous behavior.
Off the coastal waters of Sweden, such microplastics are found in plentiful supply. They are also a common occurrence in the rest of the waterways of the world.
Since the larval perch feed on these particles instead of their usual diet, they suffered the consequences. This happens to be the first such instance of an animal species feeding on plastic instead of real food.
Those larvae that had been exposed to microplastics were also more likely to be sluggish and show lesser activity as compared to their cousins that consumed a natural diet.
They also managed to ignore the smell of predators thus putting their life in jeopardy. The perch that ate microplastics tended to get eaten four times more often by predators which shows the imbalance created in Nature by mankind’s meddlesome ways.
The decline in perch larvae thus is a concern of the greatest importance for mankind. We cannot afford to lose such a precious fish species. Biodiversity demands that all species learn to co-exist in mutual harmony.
This study got published in the journal Science.