Blackmouth catshark as a sentinel of plastic waste on the seabed

Published on
07 July 2022

Ask the shark: blackmouth catshark (Galeus melastomus) as a sentinel of plastic waste on the seabed

Alice Sbrana, Alessandro Cau, Davide Cicala, Simone Franceschini, Tommaso Giarrizzo, Maria Flavia Gravina, Alessandro Ligas, Giulia Maiello, Marco Matiddi, Antonio Parisi, Paolo Sartor, Mario Sbrana, Umberto Scacco, Tommaso Valente, Claudio Viva, Tommaso Russo


The presence of plastic waste in the marine environment has driven the scientific community to make significant efforts to study and mitigate its possible effects. One of the critical aspects is to determine if and how an increase in ingestion events may occur as a result of the accumulation of plastic waste on the seabed. In this study, G. melastomus is examined for its ability to indirectly provide information on the amount of macroplastics accumulating on the seafloor. Plastic ingestion is explored by describing the feeding habits of the species, which have the potential to provide very useful information regarding biological or ecological issues. The diet of G. melastomus mainly consisted of cephalopods, bathypelagic fishes, and decapod crustaceans, increasing in diversity during growth. The generalist-opportunistic feeding behaviour of this species leads to the incidental ingestion of plastic particles (N = 47, with a mean (± SD) of 1.47 ± 0.28 per specimen) which can be indirectly associated to the presence of macroplastics on the seafloor. Indeed, our results indicate a significant relationship between the amount of macroplastics present on the seabed and the frequency of ingestion of plastic particles by blackmouth catshark. We propose G. melastomus as an excellent candidate for developing a valid monitoring strategy for the presence of plastics on the seabed, as requested by the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Mar Biol 169, 98 (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s00227-022-04084-1


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