DEC 05, 2018 05:48 PM PST

All Known Sea Turtle Species Have Ingested Microplastics

The world’s oceans are undergoing a pollution crisis the likes of which we’ve never seen before, and the unsuspecting victims of said crisis are the various forms of innocent wildlife that inhabit them.

While researchers have observed microplastics and plastic fibers in a bevy of different marine-centric species that call the Earth’s many oceans their home, new research published this week in the journal Global Change Biology highlights how sea turtles are perhaps the hardest-hit of them all.

A sea turtle, which probably has microplastics in its gut.

Image Credit: Pixabay

A team of researchers from the University of Exeter and Plymouth Marine Laboratory, in collaboration with the Greenpeace Research Laboratories, analyzed the gut contents of 102 deceased sea turtles from all seven known species groups from three of the world’s oceans. Alarmingly, every one of those examined was found to have microplastics hiding away in its gut.

The types of microplastics found in the turtles’ guts varied from one to the next, but one thing they all had in common was the presence of synthetic particles, such as what make up the fibers of cigarette filters, clothing, rope, tires, and fishing nets, among other things.

"The effect of these particles on turtles is unknown," explained Dr. Emily Duncan, the study’s lead author. "Their small size means they can pass through the gut without causing a blockage, as is frequently reported with larger plastic fragments."

"However, future work should focus on whether microplastics may be affecting aquatic organisms more subtly," Dr. Duncan added. "For example, they may possibly carry contaminants, bacteria or viruses, or they may affect the turtle at a cellular or subcellular level. This requires further investigation."

Related: Study finds all sorts of garbage in seagulls' stomachs

As it would seem, the researchers found more than 800 synthetic particles in their relatively small sample set, but the necropsies only analyzed certain parts of the sea turtles’ guts. Given how much of the gut the researchers didn't investigate, they estimate that the synthetic particle presence could be up to 20 times higher than meets the eye.

As for how all this microplastic gets into the guts of all these sea turtles, many wild animals mistake bits of plastic for food when they happen upon it because it retains oceanic odors reminiscent of fish. Experts also note how smaller prey can ingest microplastics, passing it on to the larger creatures in the food chain that swallow the prey whole.

The study brings attention to two significant problems: 1) that all seven of the world’s sea turtle species have seen massive exposure to microplastic ingestion, and 2) that we need to do a better job of managing ocean waste if we expect marine animal conservation efforts to work effectively.

Related: Another whale dies from swallowing plastic bags

Given just how much wildlife is being impacted by our irresponsible ocean waste management, we can only hope that someone will step up to the plate and ramp up cleanup efforts.

Source: University of Exeter, Global Change Biology

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
SEP 19, 2019
Earth & The Environment
SEP 19, 2019
Say goodbye to male turtles
Male loggerhead turtle populations of Cape Verde are under particular threat of extinction due to the odd fact that the sex of a turtle hatchling is determ...
SEP 19, 2019
Plants & Animals
SEP 19, 2019
Watch This Dive Team Collect a Blood Sample From a Captive Whale Shark
Getting a blood sample from a massive whale shark can be particularly challenging and would typically require administering an anesthetic to put the animal...
SEP 19, 2019
Health & Medicine
SEP 19, 2019
Cannabis Leaves Possess Antibacterial Effects Against MRSA
A team of researchers from Saaii College of Medical Science and Technology and the University of Gour Banga in India used ethanol-based tinctures containin...
SEP 19, 2019
Plants & Animals
SEP 19, 2019
Can We Grow Plants on Mars?
If we were ever to send humans to Mars for a long-term or permanent visit, then it’d be essential that we develop some sort of renewable food source....
SEP 19, 2019
Plants & Animals
SEP 19, 2019
Crows Are Incredibly Smart Birds
Many people don’t realize it, but animals can be particularly intelligent when it comes to matters of problem-solving. In this video, we see a lone c...
SEP 19, 2019
SEP 19, 2019
Antibiotic Resistance Rises in Wild Dolphins
Antibiotic resistant bacteria are considered a major threat to public health, which is expected to get more serious....
Loading Comments...