General, Research, Technology

Why do turtles eat plastic trash?

Due to the fact that people are irresponsibly throwinggarbage directly from the windows of cars, ships and even their own homes, our planet is gradually turning into a landfill. In 2019, British scientists announced that the ocean depths had already turned into plastic waste bins and were dangerous for many animal species. Sea turtles suffer especially from this, who take plastic garbage for food, actively eat it and ultimately die. But why does the smell of plastic not repel turtles? An American scientist from the University of Florida and Stanford University took up the answer to this question.

Turtles began to eat plastic frequently.

According to the results of the study, which werepublished in the scientific journal Current Biology, trash floating in water quickly picks up the smell and taste of algae. The fact is that particles of various algae quickly stick to bottles and other plastic products, and a plaque of water bacteria forms on them. In the end, it turns out that plastic debris takes on “natural” smells and turtles mistakenly eat them for food.

Animals eat plastic

To verify their assumption, scientistsconducted an experiment involving 15 captive-bred big-headed turtles. They were released into a large tank with real food and plastic garbage with adherent bacteria and algae. In the course of observations, scientists noticed that turtles reacted to plastic waste in the same way as to ordinary food. Previously, scientists suggested that waste can attract animals and their appearance. But the head of the new study, Joseph Pfaller, announced that the reason lies not only in the external attractiveness, but also in taste and smell.

See also: What does the largest turtle in the world look like?

Perhaps that is why plastic trasheaten by other animals. Bottles, fishing nets and other waste are often found inside fish, marine mammals and even birds. For example, in 2019, a dead sperm whale was discovered on the coast of the Scottish island of Harris, inside of which about 100 kilograms of various garbage were found. In addition to fishing nets, plastic cups and rubber gloves were found in it. Most likely, they fell into the water from ships whose crew irresponsibly throws garbage directly overboard.

Plastic in the nose of the turtle

It is believed that at the moment plasticconsumes 52% of all currently existing turtles. As soon as the turtle eats one piece of plastic garbage, the probability of his death increases dramatically by as much as 22%. If the animal swallows more than 14 pieces, the risk of death rises to 50%. Most likely, in the future, the number of deaths of turtles due to plastic debris will only increase, because they can begin to consume even more waste over time. This trend is already observed in birds, so some scientists predict that by 2050 plastic debris will be contained in the body of almost every seabird.

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Not only does plastic enter organismsanimals, so it is found even in human organisms. So, in 2019, German scientists found that in the organisms of 97% of local children there are tiny particles of microplastic, the sources of which are non-stick coatings of pans and disposable tableware. You can read more about this study and its results in our special material.