December 2018 — Can microplastics be mistaken for algae? A recent study by the University of Plymouth and the Plymouth Marine Laboratory demonstrated that nylon microfibers can acquire dimethyl sulfide (DMS), a compound produced by algae, when environmentally exposed to the compound. The study also showed that Calanus helgolandicus, a chemosensing copepod that uses DMS to locate algae, their normal food source, more readily ingested microplastic fibers infused with DMS (Fig. 1). The FlowCam was used to enumerate the microplastic fibers and evaluate microplastic fiber uptake during the experiment.
This study implies that other chemosensing species like C. helgolandicus could be at heightened risk for consumption of microplastic debris should it acquire DMS and "smell like" algae.
Procter, J., Hopkins, F.E., Fileman, E.S., Lindeque, P.K. 2019. Smells good enough to eat: Dimethyl sulfide (DMS) enhances copepod ingestion of microplastics. Mar. Poll. Bull. 138:1-6. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2018.11.014.