Microplastics (MP) are considered emerging contaminants in the water environment, and there is an interest in understanding their entry into the food web. As a growing body of literature demonstrates the ingestion of MP by zooplankton in controlled laboratory studies, few data are available demonstrating in situ observations of MP in zooplankton. A field survey was performed to collect zooplankton in the highly urbanized Hudson-Raritan estuary. Following washing, sorting by species, and enumeration, three dominant species of copepods (Acartia tonsa, Paracalanus crassirostris and Centropages typicus) were digested. MP were filter concentrated and characterized by size, morphology, and color via microscopy and polymer type by micro-FTIR imaging and/or Raman spectroscopy. MP were observed in all extracts performed on the three copepod species with averages ranging from 0.30 to 0.82 MP individual-1. Polyethylene and polypropylene were the dominant polymer types observed and fragments and beads the most commonly observed morphologies for MP. These data were used to estimate the flux of MP through zooplankton based on gut turnover times, which we compare to estimates of MP entering this environment though the local waterways. The estimated fluxes were sufficiently large, indicating that ingestion by zooplankton is a major sink of MP in the size range subject to zooplankton feeding in surface estuarine waters.
Keywords: Copepods; Plastics; Polymer; Raman micro-spectroscopy.
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