Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 34, pp 34644–34651 | Cite as

Polystyrene microplastics did not affect body growth and swimming activity in Xenopus laevis tadpoles

  • Beatrice De FeliceEmail author
  • Renato Bacchetta
  • Nadia Santo
  • Paolo Tremolada
  • Marco Parolini
Research Article


A growing number of studies have highlighted the contamination and the effects towards organisms of diverse microplastics (μPs) in the marine environment. Surprisingly, although the main sources of μPs for marine environments are inland surface waters, the information on the occurrence and the effects of μPs in freshwater ecosystems is still scant. Thus, the aim of the present work is to investigate the ingestion and possible adverse effects due to the exposure to polystyrene μPs (PSμPs; Ø = 3 μm) on tadpoles of the Amphibian Xenopus laevis. Larvae at the developmental stage 36, prior to mouth opening, were exposed under semi-static conditions to 0.125, 1.25, and 12.5 μg mL−1 of PSμPs, and allowed to develop until stage 46. At the end of the exposure, the digestive tract and the gills from exposed and control tadpoles were microscopically examined, as well as changes in body growth and swimming activity. PSμPs were observed in tadpoles’ digestive tract, but not in the gills, from each tested concentration. However, neither body growth nor swimming activity were affected by PSμPs exposure. Our results demonstrated that PSμPs can be ingested by tadpoles, but they did not alter X. laevis development and swimming behavior at least during early-life stages, also at high, unrealistic concentrations.


Polystyrene microplastics Xenopus laevis Ingestion Microscopy Swimming activity 



We thank Dr. Marco Ortenzi and Dr. Stefano Antenucci for additional analyses of polystyrene μPs characterization.

Supplementary material

11356_2018_3408_Fig6_ESM.png (656 kb)
Figure S1

SEM images showing the 3 μm PSμPs used for the exposures. (PNG 655 kb)

11356_2018_3408_MOESM1_ESM.tif (798 kb)
High resolution image (TIF 797 kb)
11356_2018_3408_Fig7_ESM.png (619 kb)
Figure S2

SEM images showing the structure of gills from X. laevis tadpoles at stage 46. (A) Control sample; (B) Sample exposed to 12.5 μg/mL PSμPs. No polystyrene beads were found. (PNG 618 kb)

11356_2018_3408_MOESM2_ESM.tif (551 kb)
High resolution image (TIF 551 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beatrice De Felice
    • 1
    Email author
  • Renato Bacchetta
    • 1
  • Nadia Santo
    • 2
  • Paolo Tremolada
    • 1
  • Marco Parolini
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science and PolicyUniversity of MilanMilanItaly
  2. 2.Unitech NOLIMITS, Imaging FacilityUniversity of MilanMilanItaly

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