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Microplastics lodge in crab gills and guts

Marine creatures absorb plastic particles not only through food but via respiration

12:51pm, July 8, 2014

PERISHABLE PLASTIC  Shore crabs can trap microplastic pollution in their gills, a lab study finds. 

Crabs sop up microplastic pollution via their food and gills, researchers have found in a laboratory study. The tiny particles can lodge in the crustaceans’ bodies for weeks. Crabs become the first marine creature known to trap microplastics in their respiratory systems.

Previous studies had looked at how plastics affect marine organisms through their diet but not through what they breathe. “For a marine crustacean to actually uptake microplastics through respiration and then retain them in the gills — that’s groundbreaking,” says environmental marine biologist Phillip Cowie of the University of Glasgow.

Crabs are central players in the marine food web. They consume other seafloor dwellers, including mollusks, while crabmeat often forms meals for large predators like octopuses, otters and humans. Studies have found that many animals’ bodies hang on to plastic particles, but questions remain about where those plastics go once inside a

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