The impacts of microplastic pollution on the anti-predator behaviour of coral reef fish Event as iCalendar

15 April 2019

1 - 2pm

Venue: Mac 1 Biology Building

Location: 5 Symonds St

Host: SBS

Dr Bridie JM Allan
Dr Bridie JM Allan

Speaker: Dr Bridie JM Allan, Department of Marine Science, University of Otago


The intense consumption and rapid disposal of plastic products is leading to the widespread accumulation of plastic debris in marine ecosystems. As plastics breakdown, they are often mistaken as a food source leading to mechanically derived internal damage through abrasion, ulcers and digestive congestion resulting in a loss in body condition. 

In addition to direct ingestion of plastics is the potential threat of exposure to highly toxic chemicals that are used during the manufacturing of plastics. Exposure to these chemicals can induce adverse effects and maladaptive behavioural changes in organisms. However, little is known about the sub-lethal effects of microplastic exposure on coral reef fishes.

To investigate this further, Dr Bridie Allan and colleagues exposed coral reef fish recruits to a range of different plastic particles comprised of different plasticisers to quantify changes in behaviours important for successful recruitment.

We found that when fish were exposed to plastic particles, there were changes in the behaviours that underpin successful predator evasion, with responsiveness to an attack and locomotor performance affected. Moreover, when placed onto patch reefs in situ, behaviours that increase conspicuousness to predators were increased with subsequent increases in mortality, suggesting that coral reef fish are vulnerable to the effects of marine plastic pollution.