in the ocean food chain.
A new study suggests
they might have another route
into terrestrial animals.
5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean
that animals are liable to eat, there is a lot of plastic slowly
working its way up the food chain.
Mosquito larvae are perfectly capable of eating microplastics and retain the plastic as adults, opening up a new route for the contamination of animals higher up on the food chain.
A random group of the
larvae were then examined to see how many of the beads remained in
the larvae both shortly after eating them and after they had matured
When they tested the same specimens after they matured, the number of beads had declined to an average of 40 beads per mosquito, but this is still a lot of plastic for a small bug that only spends part of its life living in freshwater.
The authors also remind us that mosquitoes aren't the only insect with this kind of life cycle and that this new method of dispersion can also occur with dragonflies and midges, among others.
All of these animals are eaten by larger predators, such as birds, which themselves are likely carrying plastic into their bodies currently.
If we are going to try and solve the problem of microplastics in the environment, we need to understand how it is moving around and how many creatures might be eating the fragments each day.
This study gives us an entirely
new area to look into as part of that mission.
Plus, this makes a
previously existing problem worse
The authors of this study mention the risks to the food web several times - and the problem of what happens to us when we eat contaminated fish bothers a lot of people.
While we've only found
microplastics in a
few bird species that eat seafood, we know that
birds have already been eating larger chunks plastic for some time.
In a study (Threat of Plastic Pollution to Seabirds is Global, Pervasive, and Increasing) published in 2015, it was found that a majority of seabird species had plastic in them already.
The authors predicted
that 99 percent of all seabird species will test positive for
plastic ingestion by 2050, if current rates of pollution continue.
If we're just learning
about it now, there is probably already some microplastic moving
through these ecosystems already.
The problem with your dining preference is that the food web becoming even more saturated with plastics than it already is - that disregarded plastic is finding its way into us.
While we don't know how
much microplastic waste humans can tolerate before becoming ill, the
prospect of eating and accruing bits of plastic doesn't strike most
people as a good one.
When we pollute the environment that web makes sure that we end up being contaminated too. The results of this study on mosquitoes shows us that the problem of microplastics is even more complicated and pervasive than we thought.
If we don't want to have
to solve the problem of what to do when there is too much plastic in
a person's diet, we need to understand how the plastics move through
the ecosystem now.