Impact of Microfiber Pollution on Planorbis sp. (Ramshorn Snail) Fecundity, Growth & Mortality
Dr. Laurie Eberhardt and Dr. Julie Peller
Arts and Sciences
Scientific research on plastic microfiber pollution (synthetic fibers < 5 mm commonly shed from our clothing and carpeting) has increased exponentially. Microfibers have been detected in marine biota such as lobsters, clams and fish, and can have effects on their physiology and behavior, but little is known about the presence or impacts of microfibers in freshwater systems. This study explored some of the potential effects microfibers pose to freshwater organisms. Data collected from Willowcreek Middle School students (Portage, IN) helped Valparaiso University scientists narrow their research focus from three different benthic freshwater macroinvertebrates, all of which are located in the Laurentian Great Lakes, down to one: Planorbis sp. (Ramshorn Snail). Snails were intentionally exposed to polyester microfibers for 6 weeks. Each week, snail reproduction and mortality data were recorded. Early on in the experiment, exposed snails laid significantly more egg sacs than snails in the control group. Exposed snails produced more young than the control group. Replicates that experienced adult mortality had significantly higher fecundity regardless of treatment. At the end of the experiment, biomass of young snails and fecal matter was recorded, and snails were analyzed for microfibers after being processed using the Fenton Reagent. While exposure to plastic microfibers appears to have an impact on these snails, it is unclear whether this is a positive or negative impact overall. More research is needed to understand how exposure to plastic pollution impacts macroinvertebrates to anticipate the changes that may be occurring in freshwater food chains throughout the Great Lakes system.
Kubalewski, Anna M.; Huff, Allen; Kostelnik, Eddie; Montgomery, Emma; Smith, Ashley L.; Eberhardt, Laurie; and Peller, Julie, "Impact of Microfiber Pollution on Planorbis sp. (Ramshorn Snail) Fecundity, Growth & Mortality" (2018). Summer Interdisciplinary Research Symposium. 25.