SEP 17, 2018 7:28 AM PDT

Researchers Quantify How Much Ingested Plastic it Takes to Down a Sea Turtle

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Oceanic plastic pollution has developed into a significant issue in recent years. Not only does it dirty up our planet, but it imposes a serious risk to marine wildlife like sea turtles and whales that ingest the stuff and later perish from related health issues.

Experts often perform necropsies to understand how these marine animals die. While most of these procedures reveal substantial concentrations of plastic in the deceased animals’ stomach, that doesn’t mean that even seemingly-negligible amounts of plastic don't have similar impacts.

Baby sea turtles like this one are particularly vulnerable to plastic bits.

Image Credit: Pixabay

A study published this week in the journal Scientific Reports attempts to quantify just how much plastic it takes to kill a sea turtle after ingestion. Spoiler: the results may surprise you.

Upon analyzing several years’ worth of sea turtle death and stranding reports, the researchers concluded that ingesting a single piece of plastic increases a sea turtle’s mortality risk by as much as 22 percent. Upon devouring 13 additional pieces (14 in total), the animal’s mortality risk jumps to approximately 50 percent.

As you can probably imagine, more plastic only increased the odds of mortality, with 226 or more pieces of plastic virtually translating to a certain death sentence.

The study also found that younglings were the most susceptible to plastic pollution, but even adult sea turtles occasionally kick the bucket after ingesting fragments that find their way into the ocean via human carelessness.

As it would seem, sea turtles are particularly vulnerable to plastic ingestion because of their inability to vomit.

"Because of their digestive tract, they don't regurgitate anything," study lead author Dr. Britta Denise Hardesty from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization CSIRO explained to BBC news.

"If it ends up in the wrong place, even one little thin, filmy piece of plastic can block that canal and mean that nothing can pass and ultimately the blockage can result in death."

Related: Plastic and other ocean trash to blame for sea turtle's death

Matters are worsened by the fact that younger sea turtles devour more plastic bits than their adult counterparts. The researchers believe this is because sea turtle hatchlings follow the ocean’s current just as plastic does, making for easier pickings, and that’s not a good thing by any stretch of the meaning.

"We know that disproportionately finding it more in younger animals who won't make it to the reproductive state will have long-term consequences for the survival of the species," Dr. Hardesty added. "It's very concerning."

Related: Another whale perishes from swallowing plastic bags

What it all boils down to is that humankind needs to manage its plastic waste more effectively so that it doesn’t end up in Earth’s oceans. Otherwise, endangered sea turtles and other marine wildlife could one day cease to exist.

Source: BBC, Scientific Reports

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
DEC 03, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 03, 2019
Florida's Manatees Are a Conservation Success Story
Manatees are be a common sight for Floridians who reside close to rivers and other natural waterways, but there was once a time when that wasn’t the...
DEC 27, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 27, 2019
How Dog Genomics Can Teach Us More About Human Health
It's been estimated that there are around 70 million pet dogs in the United States, with around 36 percent of households owning at least one dog....
DEC 29, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 29, 2019
Anthills Are Just the Tip of the Iceberg
At first glance, an anthill looks like a small pile of sand on the Earth with a tiny hole in the top that ants crawl into to evade danger, but they’r...
JAN 03, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 03, 2020
Breathalyzers for Cannabis Users?
With Cannabis use on the rise across the country, scientists and law enforcement are working to develop technology to determine when a driver is stoned and...
JAN 27, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 27, 2020
Study Suggests That Vineyards can Adapt to Climate Change
Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) have some good news for wine lovers. Delicate wine grapes are highly susceptible to changes in te...
FEB 13, 2020
Earth & The Environment
FEB 13, 2020
Contamination from Industrial Revolution Discovered in Himalayan Glacier
Scientific studies are revealing just how humans have impacted the environment over the past few centuries. Recently, scientists from Ohio State University...
Loading Comments...