Uptake and Depuration Kinetics Influence Microplastic Bioaccumulation and Toxicity in Antarctic Krill (Euphausia superba)

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Journal Article
Environmental Science and Technology, 2018, 52 (5), pp. 3195 - 3201
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© 2018 American Chemical Society. The discarding of plastic products has led to the ubiquitous occurrence of microplastic particles in the marine environment. The uptake and depuration kinetics of ingested microplastics for many marine species still remain unknown despite its importance for understanding bioaccumulation potential to higher trophic level consumers. In this study, Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) were exposed to polyethylene microplastics to quantify acute toxicity and ingestion kinetics, providing insight into the bioaccumulation potential of microplastics at the first-order consumer level. In the 10 day acute toxicity assay, no mortality or dose-dependent weight loss occurred in exposed krill, at any of the exposure concentrations (0, 10, 20, 40, or 80% plastic diet). Krill exposed to a 20% plastic diet for 24 h displayed fast uptake (22 ng mg-1 h-1) and depuration (0.22 h-1) rates, but plastic uptake did not reach steady state. Efficient elimination also resulted in no bioaccumulation over an extended 25 day assay, with most individuals completely eliminating their microplastic burden in less than 5 days post exposure. Our results support recent findings of limited acute toxicity of ingested microplastics at this trophic level, and suggest sublethal chronic end points should be the focus of further ecotoxicological investigation.
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