Microplastics in demersal sharks of the North-East Atlantic

Published on
22. July 2020

Investigating the presence of microplastics in demersal sharks of the North-East Atlantic

Kristian J. Parton, Brendan J. Godley, David Santillo, Muhammad Tausif, Lucy C. M. Omeyer, Tamara S. Galloway


Microplastic pollution is ubiquitous in the marine environment and is ingested by numerous marine species. Sharks are an understudied group regarding their susceptibility to microplastic ingestion. Here, we provide evidence of ingestion of microplastic and other anthropogenic fibres in four demersal sharks species found in the waters of the United Kingdom and investigate whether body burdens of contamination vary according to species, sex or size. Sharks were collected from the North-East Atlantic. Stomachs and digestive tracts of 46 sharks of 4 species were examined and 67% of samples contained at least one contaminant particle. Although we acknowledge modest sample size, estimated particle burden increased with body size but did not vary systematically with sex or species. A total of 379 particles were identified, leading to median estimates ranging from 2 to 7.5 ingested contaminants per animal for the 4 species. The majority were fibrous in nature (95%) and blue (88%) or black (9%) in colour. A subsample of contaminants (Nā€‰=ā€‰62) were subject to FT-IR spectroscopy and polymers identified as: synthetic cellulose (33.3%), polypropylene (25%), polyacrylamides (10%) and polyester (8.3%). The level of risk posed to shark species by this level of contamination is unknown. Nevertheless, this study presents the first empirical evidence and an important baseline for ingestion of microplastics and other anthropogenic fibres in native UK shark species and highlights the pervasive nature of these pollutants.

Sci Rep 10, 12204 (2020), DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-68680-1


Leave a Reply