Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title



Microplastic pollution is a growing concern in marine ecosystems. With an estimated 5 trillion tons of plastic debris ending up in the ocean, it is important to understand how harmful this is to marine ecosystems. Studies have shown that in multiple organisms the ingestion of microplastics, defined as plastic pieces smaller than 5µm, can lead to negative effects on survival, reproduction, and development. Previous research has shown that there is no effect of microplastics on the development of sea urchin larvae. However, this research focused on a single species, Tripneustes gratilla, and a single type of plastic, polyethylene. To examine whether this documented lack of effect on larval sea urchin development is robust, we are examining the effect of polystyrene microbeads on the larval development of the sea urchin Lytechinus variegatus. Following previously established methods, the Lytechinus variegatus larvae were equally divided into three treatments at 48 hours post fertilization. The 3 treatments all had approximately 1000 particles per milliliter total but varied in composition between polystyrene beads and the single celled algae, Chlorella sp. Treatment 1 had ~ 1000 beads per milliliter and 0 algae particles. Treatment 2 had 500 beads and 500 algae per milliliter. Treatment 3 had 0 beads and 1000 algae per milliliter. All treatments were replicated twice. 10ml samples of larvae were collected every day for 5 days and fixed in ~1% paraformaldehyde for later examination. We will quantify larvae development by measuring body width, body length, and length of post-oral arms. If our results are consistent with previously published work, it suggests that sea urchin larvae in general are not directly, developmentally impacted by microplastics; however, if the results differ, it suggests that the impact of microplastics on sea urchin larvae depends on the type of plastic, species, or both.

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