Plastic and natural inorganic microparticles do not differ in their effects on adult mussels (Mytilidae) from different geographic regions

Thea Hamm, Jonas Barkhau, Anna Louise Gabriel, Leo L. Gottschalck, Maria Greulich, Daphne Houiller, Uki Kawata, Lukas Novaes Tump, Abril Sanchez Leon, Paulo Vasconcelos, Vincent Yap, Corrine Almeida, Zanna Chase, Catriona L. Hurd, Jennifer L. Lavers, Masahiro Nakaoka, Gil Rilov, Martin Thiel, Jeffrey T. Wright, Mark Lenz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microplastics are ubiquitous in the marine environment and studies on their effects on benthic filter feeders at least partly revealed a negative influence. However, it is still unclear whether the effects of microplastics differ from those of natural suspended microparticles, which constitute a common stressor in many coastal environments. We present a series of experiments that compared the effects of six-week exposures of marine mussels to two types of natural particles (red clay and diatom shells) to two types of plastic particles (Polymethyl Methacrylate and Polyvinyl Chloride). Mussels of the family Mytilidae from temperate regions (Japan, Chile, Tasmania) through subtropical (Israel) to tropical environments (Cabo Verde) were exposed to concentrations of 1.5 mg/L, 15 mg/L and 150 mg/L of the respective microparticles. At the end of this period, we found significant effects of suspended particles on respiration rate, byssus production and condition index of the animals. There was no significant effect on clearance rate and survival. Surprisingly, we observed only small differences between the effects of the different types of particles, which suggests that the mussels were generally equally robust towards exposure to variable concentrations of suspended solids regardless of whether they were natural or plastic. We conclude, that microplastics and suspended solids elicit similar effects on the tested response variables, and that both types of microparticles mainly cause acute responses rather than more persistent carry-over effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number151740
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 10 Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was carried out in the frame of the student training program GAME (Global Approach by Modular Experiments) of GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany. We thank all sponsors of GAME, namely BOCS, HYDROBIOS, Hydrotechnik L?beck, J. Bornh?ft Industrieger?te, Joachim Herz Stiftung, the lighthouse foundation, LimnoMar, mare, MVK, OFFCON, R?chling Stiftung, SubCtech (in alphabetical order) who made this study possible.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors


  • Effects
  • Microplastics
  • Mytilidae
  • Natural microparticles
  • Seston

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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