Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


College of Science and Mathematics


Marine Biology and Coastal Sciences

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Robert S. Prezant

Committee Member

Paul A. X. Bologna

Committee Member

Meiyin Wu


Mussels--New Jersey--Sandy Hook, Microplastics--Environmental aspects


Human activities have generated large quantities of plastics that are actively dumped or indirectly deposited into oceans. In particular, the use of single-use packaging and microplastics in cosmetics and manufacturing has led to significant increases of these contaminants in coastal waters. These plastics, because of their size, can be ingested by filter-, suspension-, and deposit-feeding organisms who coincidentally consume them as potential food sources. As a result, organisms may experience marked reductions in growth and/or health due to the accumulation of these plastics in their digestive tracts. While research has concentrated on the commercially harvested blue mussel Mytilus edulis, none have investigated the critically important ribbed marsh mussel Geukensia demissa. This study examined microplastic abundances and distribution trends within a bed of G. demissa at Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and investigated microplastic ingestion/rejection in a laboratory setting. Results indicate that microplastics in the field ranged from 11,000 pieces/m2 to 50,000 pieces/m2. Microplastics were also found in significant abundances down to a sampling depth of 10 cm, which was twice the average sampling depth of other studies. Furthermore, this study confirms that the G. demissa ingests polystyrene spherules (5 pm or less), which were histologically observed throughout the digestive system of all experimental mussels. Also, all experimental mussels rejected positively buoyant plastics as negatively buoyant feces and pseudo feces, which may represent a potential source of buoyant microplastics to the benthos.

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