Microplastics have been discovered in practically every corner of the globe, and new environments are always spotted: from national parks to mountain tops … in short, they are really everywhere. In fact, a new study has recently found these substances also within the food networks of Antarctica.
In the bowels of a small insect-like animal called Cryptopygus antarcticus, along the coasts of the Fildes Peninsula on King George Island, experts have found traces of polystyrene. Do not be fooled by their size of about a millimetre, according to scientists these creatures play a fundamental role in the food networks of the soil of Antarctica. Researchers fear that their discovery may indicate that plastics are making their way into the food chains of these areas. Microplastics are known to pass from one creature to another, as they do not biodegrade.
Their path is complex: plastic is consumed by zooplankton, pivable fish eat plankton and a bigger fish eats – as often happens – the smaller fish. Due to this effect, microplastics begin to accumulate in larger predators. For now, microplastics have not yet been discovered within large Antarctic fish. “Cryptopygus antarcticus plays a key role in simple terrestrial Antarctic food networks“, Elisa Bergami, marine ecologist at the University of Siena and principal author of the study, reports to Agence France-Presse.
The Fildes peninsula, the area from which this specimen was taken, is one of the most contaminated regions of Antarctica due to its proximity to scientific research stations, airport facilities and tourism.