February 2024, article in a peer-reviewed journal
Science of The Total Environment

Julieta D. Cebuhar, Javier Negrete, Lucas S. Rodr铆guez Pirani, A. Lorena Picone, Maira Proietti, Rosana M. Romano, Carlos O. Della V茅dova, Ricardo Casaux, Eduardo R. Secchi and Silvina Botta

  • Publication type: Article in peer-reviewed journal
  • Publication journal: Science of The Total Environment
  • Publication date: February 24, 2024
  • Collaborators: Laborat贸rio de Ecologia e Conserva莽茫o da Megafauna Mari, Instituto de Oceanografia, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande-FURG (BR), Programa de P贸s-Gradua莽茫o em Oceanografia Biol贸gica, Instituto de Oceanografia, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande-FURG (BR), Laborat贸rio de Predadores Tope, Instituto Ant谩rtico Argentino (ARG), Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, Universidad Nacional de La Plata (ARG), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cient铆ficas Y T茅cnicas (CONICET)(ARG), CEQUINOR (UNLP, CCT-CONICET La Plata, associated with CIC), Departamento de Qu铆mica, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas, Universidad Nacional de La Plata (ARG), Laborat贸rio de Ecologia Molecular Marinha and Projeto Lixo Marinho, Instituto de Oceanografia, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande-FURG (BR), The Ocean Cleanup (NL), Centro de Investigaci贸n Esquel de Monta帽a y Estepa Patag贸nica (CIEMEP) (ARG)
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2024.171273


Litter pollution is a growing concern, including for Antarctica and the species that inhabit this ecosystem. In this study, we investigated the microplastic contamination in three seal species that inhabit the Western Antarctic Peninsula: crabeater (Lobodon carcinophaga), leopard (Hydrurga leptonyx) and Weddell (Leptonychotes weddellii) seals. Given the worldwide ubiquity of this type of contaminant, including the Southern Ocean, we hypothesized that the three seal species would present anthropogenic debris in their feces. We examined 29 scat samples of crabeater (n = 5), leopard (n = 13) and Weddell (n = 11) seals. The chemical composition of the items found were identified using micro-Raman and micro-FTIR spectroscopies. All the samples of the three species presented anthropic particles (frequency of occurrence – %FO 鈥 100 %). Fibers were the predominant debris, but fragments and filaments were also present. Particles smaller than 5 mm (micro debris) were predominant in all the samples. Leopard seals ingested significantly larger micro-debris in comparison with the other seal species. The dominant color was black followed by blue and white. Micro-Raman and micro-FTIR Spectroscopies revealed the presence of different anthropogenic pigments such as reactive blue 238, Indigo 3600 and copper phthalocyanine (blue and green). Carbon black was also detected in the samples, as well as plastic polymers such as polystyrene, polyester and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyamide, polypropylene and polyurethane These results confirm the presence of anthropogenic contamination in Antarctic seals and highlight the need for actions to mitigate the effects and reduce the contribution of debris in the Antarctic ecosystem.