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Treatment-level impacts of microplastic exposure may be confounded by variation in individual-level responses in juvenile fish

Nanninga, Gerrit B and Pertzelan, Assaf and Kiflawi, Moshe and Holzman, Roi and Plakolm, Isolde and Manica, Andrea (2021) 'Treatment-level impacts of microplastic exposure may be confounded by variation in individual-level responses in juvenile fish.' Journal of Hazardous Materials, 416. p. 126059. ISSN 0304-3894

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Microplastic (MP) pollution is a key global environmental issue and laboratory exposure studies on aquatic biota are proliferating at an exponential rate. However, most research is limited to treatment-level effects, ignoring that there may be substantial within-population variation in responses to anthropogenic stressors. MP exposure experiments often reveal considerable, yet largely overlooked, inter-individual variation in particle uptake within concentration treatments. Here, we investigated to what degree treatment-level responses to MP exposure may be affected by variation in MP ingestion rates in the early life stages of a marine fish, the Gilt-head seabream, Sparus aurata. First, we tested whether MP ingestion variation is repeatable. Second, we assessed to what degree this variation may determine individual-level effects of MP exposure on fitness-related behavioural performance (i.e., escape response). We found that consistent inter-individual variation in MP ingestion was prevalent and led to differential impacts within exposure treatments. Individuals with high MP ingestion rates exhibited markedly inferior escape responses, a result that was partially concealed in treatment-level analyses. Our findings show that the measured response of populations to environmental perturbations could be confounded by variation in individual-level responses and that the explicit integration of MP ingestion variation can reveal cryptic patterns during exposure experiments.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Phenotypic variation; Individual-level analysis; Repeatability; Startle response; Anthropogenic contaminants
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health
Faculty of Science and Health > Life Sciences, School of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2021 20:19
Last Modified: 18 Aug 2022 11:37

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