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Assessing microplastics contamination in unviable loggerhead sea turtle eggs

December 21, 2023

Sea turtles, in comparison with marine mammals, sea birds, and fishes, are the most affected by microplastics in terms of number of individuals impacted and concentration within each organism. The ubiquitous nature and persistence of microplastics in the environment further compromises sea turtles as many species are currently vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered. The objective of this study was to quantify microplastic contamination in unviable loggerhead sea turtle eggs (Caretta caretta). Eggs were collected from seven locations along the northwest coast of Florida. A total of 70 nests and 350 eggs were examined. Microplastics (n = 510) were found in undeveloped loggerhead sea turtle eggs across all seven sites, suggesting that maternal transference and/or exchange between the internal and external environment were possible. The frequency found was 7.29 ± 1.83 microplastic pieces per nest and 1.46 ± 0.01 per egg. Microplastics were categorized based on color, shape, size, and type of polymer. The predominant color of microplastics were blue/green (n = 236), shape was fibers (n = 369), and length was 10–300 μm (n = 191). Identified fragments, films, beads and one foam (n = 187) had the most common area of 1–10 μm2 (n = 45). Micro-Fourier Transform Infrared (μ-FTIR) spectroscopy analysis demonstrated that polyethylene (11 %) and polystyrene (7 %) were the main polymer types. For the first time microplastics were found in unviable, undeveloped loggerhead sea turtle eggs collected in northwest Florida. This work provides insight into the distribution patterns of microplastic pollutants in loggerhead sea turtle eggs and may extend to other species worldwide.

Publication Year 2024
Title Assessing microplastics contamination in unviable loggerhead sea turtle eggs
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.169434
Authors Lindsay F. Curl, Samantha A. Hurst, Christopher M. Pomory, Margaret Lamont, Alexis M. Janosik
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Index ID 70251142
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center