Quirks & Quarks

* Updated - paper retracted * Ocean plastic is fake food for baby fish

Larval fish preferentially eat tiny pieces of plastic over real food, and this compromises their growth and alters their behaviour

Microplastic in marine systems is eaten by larval fish is likely harming their development

Larval perch with microplastic in its gut (Oona Lönnstedt)

UPDATE:  Science Magazine has announced that the journal will be retracting the paper on which this story was based, following an investigation by Sweden's Central Ethical Review Board.  The Board concluded that the researchers committed "scientific dishonesty" in the research, and recommended that the journal retract the paper.  You can find more on the investigation in Science Magazine`s News story


Scientists have been raising the alarm about the huge amounts of plastic that have been entering marine systems, and ending up in the most remote ocean areas. In a new study Dr. Oona Lönnstedt, a marine biologist in the Department of  Ecology and Genetics at Uppsala University in Sweden, investigated what impact one common plastic, polystyrene, has on juvenile fish.

She found that larval perch were affected by plastic, both physically and chemically, in several ways.  Egg hatching was less successful in the presence of plastic, and larval fish seemed attracted to it, consuming it in preference over their normal food of zooplankton. 

Plastic also seemed to affect fish behaviour, making them less active, and causing them to ignore the chemical cues that trigger their predator avoidance behaviours.

Related Links

Paper in Science
- Uppsala University release
BBC News story
Scientific American story