Trap for juvenile sea turtles
Plastic waste in the oceans is a danger especially for (juvenile) sea turtles: A behavior acquired with evolution is the reason why newly hatched turtles and young animals often swallow plastic waste.
After hatching on the beach, young turtles swim with ocean currents to the open sea and spend their first years there. Unfortunately, these currents transport ever-increasing amounts of plastic waste. Due to the material, the waste mostly floats on the water surface - exactly where the turtles prefer to search for food. The disaster thus takes its course.
Plastic threatens marine life
Several research institutions led by the University of Exeter are conducting a study on this topic. "Our results suggest that this evolved behavior is now trapping them in highly polluted areas," says study leader Emily Duncan. "We don't yet know the impact on young turtles of ingesting plastic, but losses at this early life stage could have a significant impact on population numbers."
Plastic threatens marine life in several ways: Ingested, it can cause wounds, constipation or even perforation of the gastrointestinal tract. Plastic now accounts for about four-fifths of the trash in the world's oceans.
The researchers from the United Kingdom and Australia examined a total of 121 turtles from five different species that washed up off the Australian coast in the Pacific or Indian Oceans or were caught in fishermen's nets, as they report in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science. The juvenile animals were up to 50 centimeters in size, and some had only recently hatched. Specimens of all species had swallowed plastic. In very young animals, the remains were often five to ten millimeters in size; older turtles also contained larger pieces.
The differences in the findings between the different oceans are interesting: "Plastics in the Pacific turtles were mainly hard fragments that could have come from a variety of products used by humans, while plastics in the Indian Ocean were mainly fibers - possibly from fishing lines or nets," says author Duncan.
In addition, the proportion of animals containing plastics was higher in the Pacific than in the Indian Ocean. However, the researchers found the largest amount in a green sea turtle from the Indian Ocean: it had swallowed 343 pieces of plastic.
More articles on the topic:
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Plastic litter - Water cleaning around greek island
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