Seabirds are eating plastic because it smells like food

❝ Plastic pollution in the sea gives off a smell that attracts foraging birds, scientists have found…The discovery could explain why seabirds such as the albatross swallow plastic, causing injury or death.

The smell, similar to the odour of rotting seaweed, is caused by the breakdown of plankton that sticks to floating bits of plastic…About 90% of seabirds have eaten plastic and may keep some in their bellies, putting their health at risk…

❝ Scientists think seabirds associate the smell of plastic with food – and are tricked into swallowing plastic waste…

“We found a chemical on plastic that these birds typically associate with food, but now it’s being associated with plastic…And so these birds might be very confused – and tricked into consuming plastic as food.”

❝ The chemical – dimethyl sulfide – has a characteristic sulphurous odour associated with boiling cabbage or decaying seaweed…It is also produced in the oceans through the breakdown of microscopic algae or phytoplankton, which collects on plastic.

Seabirds with a keen sense of smell, including albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, can detect this odour, which they associate with food.

What a species we are. Most critters are smart enough not to crap in their own nest. But, the world is our whole nest, folks. We need to require those who despoil our oceans and continents to take responsibility for their mess. And, better yet, stop them from making a mess in the first place.

One thought on “Seabirds are eating plastic because it smells like food

  1. Mr. McGuire says:

    “Microplastics may enter foodchain through mosquitoes” (AFP) https://phys.org/news/2018-09-microplastics-foodchain-mosquitoes.html (includes link to study published in Biology Letters).
    “Mosquitoes are eating plastic and spreading it to new food chains” (New Scientist) https://www.newscientist.com/article/2180055-mosquitoes-are-eating-plastic-and-spreading-it-to-new-food-chains/ “Plastic pollution is ubiquitous in the environment, particularly in water.
    Birds, fish and other animals living around aquatic systems can ingest small plastic pieces by accident. These microplastics, with a diameter under 5 millimetres, pose a huge threat to the health of marine and freshwater ecosystems as they enter the food web. But their impact may be spread by animals with a lifecycle that involves living both in water and on land. Many insects, such as mosquitoes and dragonflies, spend their juvenile stages in water but move to land once they become adults.”
    ‘A single piece of plastic’ can kill sea turtles, says study (BBC News) https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-45509822

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