Pacific mole crabs don’t do so well when exposed to microplastics.
We know that our beaches are a sink for microplastics around the world and there are many little critters that live in that space between the ocean and the land, where we all love to play at the beach her on the west coast. If you’ve ever stuck your toes in the sand, you’ve probably seen one of these little crabs. The shorebirds eat them as well as the fish that hang out right under the waves near the beach. I knew sand crabs were exposed to and eating microplastics from previous studies I had done, so the next step was to see if it affected them in any way. So I put together a lab experiment and found that it increases their mortality – so crabs that were exposed to polypropylene microplastic fibers dies sooner that the crabs that were not exposed. These exposed crabs also released their eggs sooner – so the embryo’s did not have time to develop and hatch into little crab larvae and just the exposure to microplastic fibers cause the development of the crab eggs to either slow down or speed up depending on what stage they were in. This led to a lot more questions and we will be working on those next.
All of the news about plastic in the ocean can be fairly depressing, I know I am generally overwhelmed by all of it. However, each one of us can do things to make a change and if enough of us do, we can change others as well.
Bring your own reusable bags, reusable silverware and straws, pick up trash if you see it laying around. Make little changes to start and it gets easier. I had a colleague challenge me to write down or take a picture of everything I touched in one day that was plastic….it was overwhelming! But little bits at a time can change habits. We can make a difference and help take care of our ocean.