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The Influence of Microplastics on Fertilization Success and Sperm Availability in Purple Sea Urchins (Arbacia punctulata)

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Cesar Estien
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Fertilization success within broadcast spawning species is largely dependent on environmental conditions. Previous research has shown that high levels of suspended particles can limit sperm availability in marine broadcast spawners; however, few studies have explored the effects of microplastics on this group of organisms. Purple sea urchins (Arbacia punctulatas) were used as a model to investigate the effect of microplastics on fertilization success in spawning invertebrates. Fertilization success was measured under three microplastic concentrations at three different sperm dilutions. We found that fertilization success was significantly affected by microplastics across all concentrations. On average, across all treatments, fertilization success was 8.75% compared to 76.25% seen in the control. Microplastics did not have a statistically significant effect on depleting sperm, but this trend followed a similar pattern to fertilization success. Overall, this study indicates that microplastic pollution represents a significant threat to aquatic and marine species that reproduce by broadcast spawning.