Microplastics are taken up by mussels (Mytilus edulis) and lugworms (Arenicola marina) living in natural habitats

Environ Pollut. 2015 Apr;199:10-7. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2015.01.008. Epub 2015 Jan 21.


We studied the uptake of microplastics under field conditions. At six locations along the French-Belgian-Dutch coastline we collected two species of marine invertebrates representing different feeding strategies: the blue mussel Mytilus edulis (filter feeder) and the lugworm Arenicola marina (deposit feeder). Additional laboratory experiments were performed to assess possible (adverse) effects of ingestion and translocation of microplastics on the energy metabolism (cellular energy allocation) of these species. Microplastics were present in all organisms collected in the field: on average 0.2 ± 0.3 microplastics g(-1) (M. edulis) and 1.2 ± 2.8 particles g(-1) (A. marina). In a proof of principle laboratory experiment, mussels and lugworms exposed to high concentrations of polystyrene microspheres (110 particles mL(-1) seawater and 110 particles g(-1) sediment, respectively) showed no significant adverse effect on the organisms' overall energy budget. The results are discussed in the context of possible risks as a result of the possible transfer of adsorbed contaminants.

Keywords: Arenicola marina; Field conditions; Microplastics; Mytilus edulis; Selective uptake; Tissue concentrations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bivalvia / metabolism
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Mytilus edulis / metabolism*
  • Plastics / metabolism*
  • Polychaeta / metabolism*
  • Polystyrenes
  • Seawater
  • Shellfish
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism*


  • Plastics
  • Polystyrenes
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical