Microplastics impair amphibian survival, body condition and function
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Microplastics (MPs) are contaminants of increasing concern; they are abundant, ubiquitous and persistent over time, representing potential risks for organisms and ecosystems. However, such risks are still virtually unknown for amphibians, despite the particular attention that these organisms often receive because of their global decline. We examined the effects of MPs (fluorescent, 10-μm polystyrene microspheres) at different concentrations (from 0 to 103 particles mL−1) on tadpoles of the common midwife toad, Alytes obstetricans, using a microcosm experiment. We assessed MP effects on tadpole feeding, growth and body condition, as well as their ingestion and egestion of MPs (estimated through fluorescence). Additionally, we explored whether MPs became attached to periphyton (the main food source for these tadpoles, thus potentially representing a major way of MP ingestion), and the effect of MPs on periphyton growth (which may translate into altered freshwater ecosystem functioning). Our results showed significant effects on all the examined variables, and caused tadpole mortality at the highest concentration; also, fluorescence indicated the presence of MPs in tadpoles, tadpole faeces and periphyton. This suggests that MPs can be an important source of stress for amphibians in addition to other pollutants, climate change, habitat loss or chytrid infections, and that amphibians can be a major transfer path for MPs from freshwater to terrestrial ecosystems. © 2019 Elsevier Ltd
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