Mosquitoes Responsible for Aerial Dispersal of Microplastics

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Researchers from University of Reading suggested that mosquitoes contaminate ecosystems with tiny bits of plastic

Microplastics (MPs) are pollutants found in abundant in oceans, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems. These MPs are ingested by aquatic organisms and transferred up through the food chain. Now, a research at the University of Reading analyzed the transmission of MPs by means of ontogenic transference, which is defined by life stages that use different habitats. Mosquito larvae glide through the ponds and puddles and create currents that draw micro particles of food into their mouths. However, fluorescent polystyrene beads can easily slip down the hatch and transfer into the flying adult stage. These adult mosquitos carry a risk of injecting these contaminants in land predators.

The Reading research was conducted by Rana Al-Jaibachi, Ross N. Cuthbert, and Amanda Callaghan of department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at School of Biological Sciences. The researchers in an experiment poured small fluorescent yellow and green plastic beads around the size of red blood cells into water-filled beakers. These beakers contained hungry mosquito larvae that was later fished out after several days. The team spotted glowing beads inside the Malpighian tubules as the larvae grew up. The tubules are equivalent to kidneys and the glow confirmed that MPs can reside in an insect’s body even as it shifts from its larval to adult life stage. Furthermore, the team found that smaller beads were more likely to wind up in the mosquitoes.

The researchers stated that when adult mosquitoes abandon the water, they can inject the MPs that were consumed during larvae stage, into new habitats. Nonaquatic predators such as birds, bats, and dragonflies that pray on mosquitoes are at risk of getting an unhealthy dose of MPs. Moreover, these MPs can be toxic to several aquatic animals. The newly discovered transport route of MPs further puts insect-eating species on land at high risk of contamination. The research was published in the journal Biology Letters of The Royal Society on September 19, 2018.

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