Why Do Seabirds Eat Plastic?

Posted: Nov 10 2016, 4:16am CST | by , Updated: Nov 10 2016, 8:40pm CST , in Latest Science News


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Why Seabirds Eat Plastic?
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  • The Reason behind the Weird Eating Habits of Some Marine Birds

The exact reason behind the weird eating habits of some marine birds has finally been found. Some of them gobble articles of plastic and the effect is not pretty.

The question is that if it appears to be food and smells like it too, than it is food? Not so. Oceanic birds often have their bellies full of plastic.

Yet researchers were puzzled over why they consume the plastic in the first place. Actually, the plastic releases a noxious odor of sulphurous compounds. The seabirds are attracted to this particular stink since it leads them to food.

The result is that mass confusion takes place and the birds mistake the plastic pieces for food pellets and eat them with detrimental consequences. The study got published recently.

This phenomenon is sporadic since some seabirds show the tendency to ingest plastic whereas others do not. Tubenosed seabirds especially have a sharp sense of olfaction. They use this ability in their hunting repertoire. These birds are also the most afflicted with plastic poisoning.

One of the researchers pointed out that taking the question from the bird’s angle lends us several clues as to this deleterious behavior. Animals normally follow a certain action due to a reason and not on a whimsical basis.

To find out why animals are ingesting plastic, we have to see how they find their food. This research may elucidate ways to end plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. That way humanity may save other species besides seabirds from this scourge.

These include turtles and fish. Scientists conducted experiments in which they put beads of the three most common plastics into the ocean waters. These plastics are often thrown away thanks to consumerism into the waterways in the form of debris.

The plastics were: high density polyethylene, low density polyethylene and poly-propylene. The scientists were wary not to harm any marine life forms so these beads were placed inside a mesh.

They were later on collected by the researchers. Then the testing began. The plastic beads smelt vile and the stink was just like sulfurous compounds of the sort that were released by algae. The offensive scent caused tubenosed seabirds to seek the plastic as a possible food source.

The algae are eaten by krill which are the main meal source for the seabirds. So we get a pretty good idea of why seabirds end up ingesting harmful plastic that has been discarded in the ocean’s waterways.

This research is published today in the journal Science Advances.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
Sumayah Aamir (Google+) has deep experience in analyzing the latest trends.




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