Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Coastal Marine and Wetland Studies


Coastal and Marine Systems Science


College of Science

First Advisor

Daniel C. Abel

Second Advisor

Bryan Franks

Third Advisor

George E. Boneillo


This study focused on the presence and accumulation of microplastic fibers in the digestive tract and livers of young-of-year Atlantic Sharpnose Sharks (Rhizopriondon terraenovae) from two sampling locations along the Grand Strand of South Carolina. R. terraenovae is a small, mesopredatory elasmobranch found abundantly along northwestern Atlantic Ocean coastlines. Thirty specimens of R. terraenovae were collected from May through August of 2020. Microplastics were found in all specimens. A total of 672 plastic particles were identified over the course of the study, with an average of 22.4 ± 10.5 (SD) plastics per specimen. The majority of the plastics were classified as fibers (91.4% of total), followed by films (4.3%), fragments (3.7%), pellets (0.6%), and were clear in color (47%). This study did not find evidence to support monthly microplastic accumulation during the four-month sampling period. Moreover, the potential for prenatal transfer in R. terraenovae remains uncertain. However, this project was the first to survey microplastic counts over a four-month timeframe in sharks and reports some of the highest reported microplastic levels in sharks.