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Imhof, Hannes K.; Rusek, Jakub; Thiel, Michaela; Wolinska, Justyna and Laforsch, Christian (2017): Do microplastic particles affect Daphnia magna at the morphological, life history and molecular level?
In: PLOS One 12(11), e0187590 [PDF, 9MB]

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Microplastic particles are ubiquitous not only in marine but also in freshwater ecosystems. However, the impacts of microplastics, consisting of a large variety of synthetic polymers, on freshwater organisms remains poorly understood. We examined the effects of two polymer mixtures on the morphology, life history and on the molecular level of the waterflea Daphnia magna (three different clones). Microplastic particles of similar to 40 mu m were supplied at a low concentration (1% of the food particles) leading to an average of similar to 30 particles in the digestive tract which reflects a high microplastic contamination but still resembles a natural situation. Neither increased mortality nor changes on the morphological (body length, width and tail spine length) or reproductive parameters were observed for adult Daphnia. The analyses of juvenile Daphnia revealed a variety of small and rather subtle responses of morphological traits (body length, width and tail spine length). For adult Daphnia, alterations in expression of genes related to stress responses (i.e. HSP60, HSP70 & GST) as well as of other genes involved in body function and body composition (i.e. SERCA) were observed already 48h after exposure. We anticipate that the adverse effects of microplastic might be influenced by many additional factors like size, shape, type and even age of the particles and that the rather weak effects, as detected in a laboratory, may lead to reduced fitness in a natural multi-stressor environment.

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