Microplastics are small particles that come from broken plastic, which are generally found in cosmetics clothing, and industrial processes. As they are not being well thrown away, they are causing oysters to develop reproductive issues.

Scientists of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences exposed oysters to polystyrene microparticles and demonstrated to interfere with energy uptake and allocation, reproduction, and offspring performance. The exposed oysters produced smaller eggs and less mobile sperm, and the offspring grew slower than normal compared to a group of oysters in a tank that did not contain microplastics and did not suffer any adverse reactions.

Microplastics are affecting the reproductive system of oysters. Credit: Phys.org

Although it remains unclear exactly what is the plastic doing to oysters, it is more likely to be interfering with the hormones of the little shellfish. It may be also blocking their digestive system which makes impossible for them to properly feed and to get the energy they need.

Oysters are considered the concierges of the sea. They provide a cleaning service for all of their water mates. They clean water, remove nitrogen, accelerate denitrification, and provide excellent habitats for lots of fish and crustaceans. Basically, a big part of the ocean’s health relies on them.

Microplastics are normally found in toothpaste and face wash. Most of them go directly down the sink and then to the sea, contributing to pollution. Since microplastic particles are about the same size as the phytoplankton, which is what oysters take to feed themselves, they eat them without understanding that they’re different, scientists explained.

The U.S. Government is making what they can to help decrease the plastic consumption and an anti-microplastics campaign has already begun. It is important to make the life of oysters last longer for the sake and benefit of the marine life future generations. However, people are fearing that maybe is a little too late.

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences