Scientists predict the size of plastics animals can eat
A team of scientists at Cardiff University has developed a way of predicting the size of plastics different animals are likely to ingest. The researchers, from the University's Water Research Institute, looked at the gut contents of more than 2,000 animals to create a simple equation to predict the size of a plastic item an animal can eat, based on the length of its body.
In the study, published in Nature Communications, they report that the length of an animal can be used to estimate the biggest piece of plastic it can eat - and this was about 5% (a twentieth) of the size of the animal. The researchers say that as the plastic pollution problem escalates, it is vital to be able to quickly assess the risk of plastics to different species around the world.
This work could also help scientists measure the risk of plastic pollution to ecosystems and food supplies - and ultimately the risk to human health. By trawling through published data, the team found plastics ingested by marine and freshwater mammals, reptiles, fishes and invertebrates, from 9mm-long fish larvae to a 10m-long humpback whale. During their research they found some shocking examples of the extent of plastic pollution, including hosepipes and flower pots in a sperm whale, plastic banana bags inside green turtles and a shotgun cartridge in a True's beaked whale.
The researchers said further work was needed to look at how and where terrestrial animals eat plastic to predict wider risks.
(Content and Image Courtesy: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-03/cu-spt032720.php)