Increased oceanic microplastic debris enhances oviposition in an endemic pelagic insect

Biol Lett. 2012 Oct 23;8(5):817-20. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0298. Epub 2012 May 9.


Plastic pollution in the form of small particles (diameter less than 5 mm)--termed 'microplastic'--has been observed in many parts of the world ocean. They are known to interact with biota on the individual level, e.g. through ingestion, but their population-level impacts are largely unknown. One potential mechanism for microplastic-induced alteration of pelagic ecosystems is through the introduction of hard-substrate habitat to ecosystems where it is naturally rare. Here, we show that microplastic concentrations in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG) have increased by two orders of magnitude in the past four decades, and that this increase has released the pelagic insect Halobates sericeus from substrate limitation for oviposition. High concentrations of microplastic in the NPSG resulted in a positive correlation between H. sericeus and microplastic, and an overall increase in H. sericeus egg densities. Predation on H. sericeus eggs and recent hatchlings may facilitate the transfer of energy between pelagic- and substrate-associated assemblages. The dynamics of hard-substrate-associated organisms may be important to understanding the ecological impacts of oceanic microplastic pollution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomass
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Geography
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Oviposition
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Plastics / toxicity*
  • Waste Products
  • Water Movements
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity
  • Water Pollution


  • Plastics
  • Waste Products
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical