Exposure of aquatic organisms to micro- and nano-sized plastic debris in their environment has become an alarming concern. Besides having a number of potentially harmful impacts for individual organisms, plastic particles can also influence the phenotype and performance of their offspring. We tested whether the sperm prefertilization exposure to nanoplastic particles could affect offspring survival, size, and swimming performance in the European whitefish Coregonus lavaretus. We exposed sperm of ten whitefish males to three concentrations (0, 100 and 10 000 pcs spermatozoa− 1 ) of 50 nm carboxyl-coated polystyrene spheres, recorded sperm motility parameters using computer assisted sperm analysis (CASA) and then fertilized the eggs of five females in all possible male-female combinations. Finally, we studied embryonic mortality, hatching time, size, and posthatching swimming performance of the offspring. We found that highest concentration of plastic particles decreased sperm motility and offspring hatching time. Furthermore, sperm exposure to highest concentration of plastics reduced offspring body mass and impaired their swimming ability. This suggests that sperm prefertilization exposure to plastic pollution may decrease male fertilization potential and have important transgenerational impacts for offspring phenotype and performance. Our findings indicate that nanoplastics pollution may have significant ecological and evolutionary consequences in aquatic ecosystems.
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