Plastic Found in 1/3 of Leatherback Turtles, According to Study


Photo: Turtles.org
"Leatherback turtles are ancient creatures with a modern problem: Plastic."
A new study has looked at "necropsy reports of more than 400 leatherback" turtles and found that about 1/3 of them had plastic in their digestive system. They're not saying it was the immediate cause of death, but as Mike James, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, says: "Eating something that is plastic can't be good for you, whether it leads to death or not." By saying no to plastic bags, you might be indirectly helping turtles...
A leatherback turtle laying her eggs. Photo: Flickr, CC

From Discovery News:

Leatherback turtles are critically endangered and highly charismatic creatures. They are big, weighing 1,000 pounds or more, with shells that can measure more than 6 feet across. These peaceful creatures have had the same basic body plan for 150 million years.

Leatherbacks are also popular for what they eat: namely, large quantities of jellyfish. The problem is that plastic bags look a lot like jellyfish, and plastic often ends up in the oceans, piling up in areas where currents -- and turtles -- converge. That led James to wonder how much often the turtles were swallowing plastic in their hunt for yummy jellyfish.

If you're wondering how this study was done, don't worry, they didn't actually capture and kill turtles to see what was in their stomachs! They dug up already existing necropsy reports (some quite old). It took them two years to find enough, but after careful study, plastic emerged as a big problem. "It's not what they should be eating. And it's kind of scary that it is showing up in their diet to the extent that it is."

So plastic bags - and the Pacific garbage patch - aren't just annoying eye-sores. They make their ways to all corners of the planet and can be quite hazardous to animals like the leatherbacks. First thing should be to cut back dramatically on plastic bag use, and then recycle those instead of throwing them away, and then biodegradable bags can probably help further reduce the risk to wildlife too.

Via Discovery News
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Tags: Animals | Oceans | Pollution

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