Microplastics (MPs) are ubiquitous contaminants of the marine environment, and the deep seafloor is their ultimate sink compartment. Manipulative and field experiments provided evidence of the ingestion of MPs by deep-sea fauna, but knowledge of MPs' fate once ingested still remains scant. We provide evidence of MP partial retention and fragmentation mediated by digestion activity of a Norwegian langoustine, a good bioindicator for MP contamination of the deep sea. We report here that MPs in the intestines were more abundant and significantly smaller (up to 1 order of magnitude in surface) than those in the stomachs. Our results show that the stomach can act as a size-bottleneck for ingested MPs, enhancing the retention of larger particles within the stomach and promoting fragmentation into smaller plastic debris, which is then released in the intestine. Our results provide evidence that the langoustine is responsible for the fragmentation of MPs already accumulated in sediments through its scavenging activity and digestion. These findings highlight the existence of a new peculiar kind of "secondary" MPs, introduced in the environment by biological activities, which could represent a significant pathway of plastic degradation in a secluded and stable environment such as the deep sea.
Benthic Crustacean Digestion Can Modulate the Environmental Fate of Microplastics in the Deep Sea / Cau, Alessandro; Avio, Carlo Giacomo; Dessì, Claudia; Moccia, Davide; Pusceddu, Antonio; Regoli, Francesco; Cannas, Rita; Follesa, Maria Cristina. - In: ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY. - ISSN 0013-936X. - STAMPA. - 54:8(2020), pp. 4886-4892-4892. [10.1021/acs.est.9b07705]