Scleractinian coral microplastic ingestion: Potential calcification effects, size limits, and retention

Mar Pollut Bull. 2018 Oct;135:587-593. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2018.07.067. Epub 2018 Jul 27.


The impact that microplastics (<5 mm) have on scleractinian coral is largely unknown. This study investigated calcification effects, size limits, and retention times of microbeads and microfibers in two Caribbean species, Montastraea cavernosa and Orbicella faveolata, in a series of three experiments. No calcification effects were seen in the two-day exposure to a microbead concentration of 30 mg L-1. M. cavernosa and O. faveolata actively ingested microbeads ranging in size from 425 μm-2.8 mm, however, a 212-250 μm size class did not elicit a feeding response. The majority of microbeads were expelled within 48 h of ingestion. There was no difference in ingestion or retention times of 425-500 μm microbeads versus 3-5 mm long microfibers. M. cavernosa and O. faveolata have the ability to recognize and reject indigestible material, yet, there is still a need to study effects of energetics and microplastic contamination as a result of ingestion and egestion.

Keywords: Calcification; Coral; Egestion; Microplastic; Retention.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / physiology*
  • Calcification, Physiologic
  • Caribbean Region
  • Eating
  • Ecotoxicology / methods*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Plastics / toxicity*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Plastics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical