▲ Up
 akipress
17:59 14-11-2018
АКИpress CA-News Tazabek Turmush
ADVERTISE WITH US SUBSCRIBE
KazakhstanKyrgyzstanMongoliaTajikistanTurkmenistanUzbekistanWorld
POLITICSBUSINESSINCIDENTSSOCIETYCULTURESPORTANALYSISSCIENCE
akipress
Animals eat ocean plastic because it smells like food
World | science | 13:16, 11 November 2016 | 7673

AKIPRESS.COM - ocean plastic Imagine you're passing a fast-food restaurant and you smell hamburger on the grill. You're hungry, so you pull in and eat one ... and the foam box it comes in.

That's apparently what's happening with some oceanic birds. And now scientists think they know why, according to The Two-Way.

The fact that sea animals and birds eat floating plastic has long puzzled biologists. Their best guess was that it looks like food. But the new evidence suggests that for a lot of birds, plastic actually smells like food.

It all comes down to a common kind of algae floating in the ocean. The algae is food for tiny animals such as krill – otherwise known as zooplankton. When the krill gobble up the algae, the algae emit a chemical called dimethyl sulfide.

Biologist Matthew Savoca says it stinks up the place. It's actually a chemical scream. As he describes it, "The algae are sort of crying out, saying 'Oh my gosh, we're being eaten and can someone please help me.'"

That might sound ridiculous but, in fact, help does come – in the form of birds. When seabirds like shearwaters smell that chemical, they know it means tasty krill are in the water. "Think of it as like a dinner bell," Savoca says. "So if we heard a dinner bell ringing, the dinner bell would signify where we could find food."

Savoca and his team at the University of California, Davis, wondered if birds were accidentally eating plastic because there was stinky algae living on it. So they put plastic out to float around in the ocean. Then they took it to the university's food and wine laboratories – this is Northern California, after all. They got some weird looks when they stuffed plastic into equipment designed to track chemicals in fine wine. But they did get their answer.

"Sure enough," Savoca says, "all this plastic reeked of that sulfur compound, likely due to the algae that coated it when it was out at sea."

So the algae cling to the plastic, and when the krill eat them, the algae scream – chemically, that is. The birds smell it and that's their "foraging cue". They scoop up the krill and the plastic.

The team's research appears in the journal Science Advances.

Marine ecologist Chelsea Rochman at the University of Toronto says that, obviously, eating plastic isn't good for the birds – it's made with some harmful chemicals that aren't meant to be eaten. But the plastic also picks up other chemicals in the ocean that make it even nastier.

"Plastic is a sponge for a lot of the chemicals that are in oil and the chemicals that are washing off from different sources, like pesticides and flame retardants and other industrial pollutants," Rochman says.

Poisoning birds is a problem. But Rochman and Savoca say biologists suspect that other marine animals, such as fish, also could be eating the plastic for the same reason – and that could have consequences not just for fish, but for people who eat them, as well.

LATEST NEWS
17:40 World's most excellent airlines for 2019 revealed17:33 Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan discuss key areas of cooperation17:15 President Jeenbekov receives commanders of CIS border troops16:50 Digital CASA: MP says parliament fears endorsing agreements after power plant breakdown16:45 Parliamentary faction leader suggests probe into leakage of personal information during election campaign16:27 MP gifts 3-storey building for school in remote district of Kyrgyzstan16:20 Kyrgyz athlete wins world weight lifting championship and sets world record16:10 Saudi Arabia to provide $30 million to Kyrgyzstan for construction of schools amid their shortage15:58 Pedestrian tunnel for 28mln soms in Osh region to open in December15:17 Calgary votes against Winter Olympics bid15:04 Kyrgyzstani fighter Altynbek Mamashev new WEF welterweight champion14:45 Construction of new building of Taza Suu municipal enterprise begins in Batken14:40 Court closes 1 case against ex-Bishkek mayor Kubanychbek Kulmatov14:36 Special services of Turkic states discuss situation in Afghanistan, Syria14:35 Campaign in honor of World Diabetes Day starts in Batken14:31 $14.6 million out of $20 million of EDB investment for farm machinery leasing disbursed: Deputy PM14:18 Kyrgyz farmers interested in Belarusian farm machinery14:08 Over 5,000 Kyrgyzstanis have diabetes: Health Ministry14:04 Kyrgyzstan, Turkey discuss military cooperation13:48 ADB allocates $500mln loan to strengthen Turkmenistan's electricity supply and boost regional power trade
© AKIpress News Agency - 2001-2018. All rights reserved
Republication of any material is prohibited without a written agreement with AKIpress News Agency. Any citation must be accompanied by a hyperlink to akipress.com.
Our address:
Moskovskaya str. 189, Bishkek, the Kyrgyz Republic
e-mail: english@akipress.org, akipressenglish@gmail.com;
Tel/Fax: +996(312)65-03-06