Fish Think Plastics Smell Good So Eat Them

Sunday, September 3, 2017 - 14:43

Marine species are known to eat plastic, especially those that regularly end up on our dinner plates, because of their smell that marine animals find appealing.

Based on a report by New Scientist, a researcher from the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Monterey, California, investigated the dietary preferences of marine life while he was a researcher at the University of California, Davis.

The researcher, Matthew Savoca and his colleagues exposed schools of anchovies to seawater that contained odors from plastic. They left plastic beads in the ocean for three weeks, then stirred the beads into seawater samples before filtering them out, leaving just the associated odor chemicals.

“This problem of animals eating plastic has not been investigated as completely as it should have been,” says Savoca. Seabirds and fish aren’t stupid, he says, and generally they are good at locating the correct prey. Savoca thinks we might have overlooked the role of odour because we are such visual animals. “That’s how we perceive the world most readily.”

“There’s no doubt that we eat microplastics when we eat seafood,” says Chelsea Rochman at the University of Toronto.

Journal reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.1000

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