How to get rid of ingested microplastic fibers? A straightforward approach of the Atlantic ditch shrimp Palaemon varians
Microplastic fibers represent a significant share of the global marine micrcroplastic pollution, particularly in coastal areas. In controlled laboratory experiments, we offered fluorescent microplastic fibers (40–4400 μm lengths, median 150 μm) and spherical microplastic beads (9.9 μm Ø) together with commercial fish food to the Atlantic ditch shrimp Palaemonetes varians. The shrimps ingested fibers and beads along with the food. Upon ingestion, the beads and the shortest fibers (up to 100 μm) passed from the stomach into the gut and were egested within the fecal strings. The longer fibers first remained in the stomach but were regurgitated, i.e. extruded through the esophagus, within 12–14 h. Regurgitation is an evolutionary adaptation of particular crustacean species and other invertebrates to remove large and indigestible food particles from the stomach. Accordingly, the process of regurgitation attained a new task nowadays, i.e. the elimination of anthropogenic filamentous microplastic debris from the stomach to avoid harm. This behavioral feature may represent a selective advantage in view of the continuously increasing environmental plastic pollution.