Scientific Study

Emperor penguin gizzards free of microplastics

Study shows top predators from Atka Bay colony do not currently accumulate plastics
[06. September 2022] 

Good news from the emperor penguin colony near the German Neumayer Station III in Antarctica's Atka Bay: The food mash fed by the adults is free of microplastics larger than 500 micrometres. This is the result of an analysis of the stomachs of 41 young emperor penguins, which researchers have now published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

An international research team with the participation of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), had collected juvenile animals during work in the emperor penguin colony that had not survived the harsh Antarctic conditions. The team later analysed their stomach contents at the AWI on Helgoland. The researchers found 85 suspicious particles (mainly fibres), which, however, turned out to be of natural origin in the exact analysis, a so-called Attenuated Total Reflection Fourier-transform Infrared (ATR-FTIR). “We find that MP concentrations in the local food web of the Weddell Sea and Dronning Maud Land coastal and marginal sea-ice regions - the feeding grounds to chick-rearing emperor penguin adults - are currently at such low levels that no detectable biomagnification is occurring via trophic transfer,” the researchers announce the good news in the journal Science of the Total Environment.


Original Publication:

Clara Leistenschneider, Céline Le Bohec, Olaf Eisen, Aymeric Houstin, Simon Neff, Sebastian Primpke, Daniel P. Zitterbart, Patricia Burkhardt-Holm, Gunnar Gerdts: No evidence of microplastic ingestion in emperor penguin chicks (Aptenodytes forsteri) from the Atka Bay colony (Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica); Science of the Total Environment (2022). DOI:


Participating institutions:

Alfred Wegener Institute
University of Basel
Centre National del aRecherche Scientifique, Universiy Strasbourg
Centre Scientifique de Monaco
University of Cologne
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg


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