A latest study has warned of the dangers micro-plastic pose to filter-feeding marine animals like manta rays and whales.
Possible risks include reduced nutritional uptake and damage to the digestive system when micro-plastics are ingested.
Led by Murdoch University, in collaboration with the Marine Mega-fauna Foundation in Indonesia, the research examined how toxic chemicals found in plastics can accumulate in the species over decades to pose a “significant risk” that can lead to stunted growth, altered development and reproductive problems, reports Xinhua news agency.
The study argues that large filter feeders, many of which are “charismatic and economically important species”, should be prioritized for further research into risks from micro-plastic.
Filter feeders swallow hundreds of cubic meters of water a day to capture their food from water, and may take in micro-plastics during the process.
Micro-plastics are similar in size and mass to many types of plankton.
“Marine filter-feeders are likely to be at risk because they need to swallow hundreds to thousands of cubic meters of water daily in an effort to capture plankton,” lead author Elitza Germanov explained in her findings.
“They can ingest microplastics directly from polluted water or indirectly through contaminated prey.”
The team’s analysis also found that species tend to congregate in areas that overlap “micro-plastic pollution hotspots”, which include the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Coral Triangle in Southeast Asia.