FEB 17, 2017 10:36 AM PST

This Beached Whale Had A Stomach Full of Plastic Bags

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

The problem with ocean pollution doesn’t just make the oceans look trashy, but it can also have adverse side effects on the ocean wildlife. It impacts animals large and small, including marine mammals like whales.

While so many of the creatures have been beaching themselves for unexplainable reasons recently, it would seem that a rare goose-beaked whale recently washed up on Norway and was so ill that it needed to be euthanized.

Following the procedure, the scientists decided to perform a necropsy to learn more about what was making the two-ton creature feel ill enough to beach itself. Inside of its stomach, they found that the organ was nearly full of as many as 30 plastic bags, and this meant that there really wasn’t much room left for food.

The numerous plastic bags that were pulled from the euthanized whale's stomach.

Image Credit: University of Bergen

Unlike some other materials, plastic isn’t one that can be digested once it enters an animal’s body. It will simply stay in the stomach and will often out-live the animal that ate it in the first place. More importantly, it takes up volumetric space, so there’s less room for the animal to eat actual food when it gets hungry. The only actual food the scientists discovered were bits of a squid’s head.

The bags ranged in size, from small bread bags to much larger trash bags. Researchers don’t think the whale ate the bags on purpose, but rather mistook them for some kind of squid while they were drifting around in the currents under the water surface.

Judging the scenario, it was believed that the animal may have been in incredible pain for a long while. The lack of blubber suggests that it wasn’t eating enough.

“It wasn’t like it was in just part of the stomach,” said University of Bergen zoologist Terje Lislevand. “It filled up the whole space. It’s the explanation of why the animal acted so strange and stranded.”

“I’m afraid to estimate how long it could have taken before his stomach was totally full,” he said. “In this case, the plastic particles accumulated and created a barrier in the system.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t something that is likely to change any time soon. Plastic bags are so widely used around the world that even if everyone switched to biodegradable solutions today, there are already so many non-biodegradable plastic bags in the oceans that the effects will be felt for many, many years, decades, or even centuries to come.

The problem with plastic pollution doesn’t affect just the life below the ocean’s surface; it also affects those above it. Sea birds are also susceptible to eating plastic because the bits and pieces they pick up often smell just like fish bits, something they naturally snack on when available.

Cleaning up our oceans will be nothing short of a complicated task, but in the end, it would be worth the efforts to help protect and save other wildlife that are currently suffering in similar situations as this euthanized whale.

Source: University of Bergen via Huffington Post

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
JUL 27, 2022
Plants & Animals
Green Tea Lowers Blood Sugar, Improves Gut Health
JUL 27, 2022
Green Tea Lowers Blood Sugar, Improves Gut Health
A new study from researchers at the Ohio State University represents one of the first attempts to examine the link betwe ...
AUG 05, 2022
Plants & Animals
New survey shows record amounts of coral in Great Barrier Reef
AUG 05, 2022
New survey shows record amounts of coral in Great Barrier Reef
Here’s a little good news for the day: certain areas of the Great Barrier Reef have the highest amount of coral co ...
AUG 13, 2022
Plants & Animals
Phosphorus Deficiencies Limit Plant Growth in the Amazon
AUG 13, 2022
Phosphorus Deficiencies Limit Plant Growth in the Amazon
One key nutrient plants need to thrive and survive is CO2, which is why plants have been a vital part of maintaining pla ...
SEP 02, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
How to harvest really good cannabis
SEP 02, 2022
How to harvest really good cannabis
What's the secret to growing a great crop of cannabis? There's several factors.
SEP 22, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Scientists Demonstrate How Air Pollution Changes the Way Plants Communicate
SEP 22, 2022
Scientists Demonstrate How Air Pollution Changes the Way Plants Communicate
In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, a team of researchers from F ...
SEP 23, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
The Chemical Mixture That Attracts Mosquitoes
SEP 23, 2022
The Chemical Mixture That Attracts Mosquitoes
If you’re prone to mosquito bites, it might be because of these chemicals on your skin. Besides being general anno ...
Loading Comments...