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The prevalence of microplastics in the marine environment has resulted in a need to understand their association with various fauna. The aim of this study was to assess whether microplastic particles are present in the tube structure of the indigenous reef-building polychaete Gunnarea gaimardi, which occurs along the coast of South Africa. Sampling was conducted at nine stations along the west and southeast coastlines of South Africa, in July 2016 and April/May 2017. Microplastic particles were recorded in all tube structures of G. gaimardi, with the density ranging between 0.056 and 1.113 microplastic particles g–1 dry weight (dwt). There were no significant differences between sites (p > 0.05), resulting in an overall average of 0.275 (SD 0.215) microplastic particles g–1 (dwt). To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study to show that synthetic polymers are found in the tubes of reef-building polychaetes along the coast of South Africa.
Keywords: biogenic habitat, intertidal ecosystem, invertebrates, marine pollution, plastic particles, sabellariid, South Africa