Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Marine Ecology Progress Series





Publisher Name

Inter Research


Microplastic particles (<5 mm) are ubiquitous throughout global marine ecosystems, including the deep sea. Ingestion of microplastics and other anthropogenic microparticles is reported in diverse marine taxa across trophic levels. Trophic transfer, or the movement of microplastics across trophic levels, is reported in laboratory studies but not yet widely measured in marine food webs. The Monterey Bay submarine canyon ecosystem contains a well-studied, known deep-sea food web in which to examine the trophic fate of microplastics. We measured microplastic abundance across 17 genera spanning approximately 5 trophic levels and a diversity of feeding behaviors. Samples were collected using remotely operated vehicles and oblique midwater trawls, and gut contents of all individuals examined (n = 157) were analyzed for microplastic abundance and other anthropogenic particles greater than 100 μm using stereo microscopy. Microparticles were analyzed with Raman spectroscopy to confirm material type. Anthropogenic particles were found in all genera examined, across crustacean, fish, mollusk, and gelatinous organisms, in amounts ranging from 0 to 24 particles per individual. There was no significant relationship between microplastic amount and fish trophic level, suggesting that the trophic transfer of microparticles is not occurring. Body size was positively correlated with microplastic abundance across all taxa. The fish genus Scomber sp. drove this relationship, suggesting higher microparticle abundance in mobile individuals with broad horizontal distributions. Future work should examine physiological pathways for microplastic transport within organisms (e.g. excretion, accumulation on gills, internal translocation of particles) and between organisms within shared habitats to more fully understand the fate of microplastics within aquatic food webs.


85118569267 (Scopus)

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.