by Risa Shimmura
Time and time again we hear about sea turtles eating plastic bags and getting stuck in debris in the ocean. However, have you ever wondered why this occurs so often?
As plastic finds its way to the ocean, it is found that all kinds of sea creatures interact and consume it. However, the frequent recurrence of this is no accident. Researchers have found that after plastic that has been stewing in the ocean it releases a chemical. This chemical gas is dimethyl sulfide. It just so happens that phytoplankton, a key food source for numerous marine animals also produce this chemical. The result of this is that this plastic smells a whole lot like food.
Scientists have established that loggerhead sea turtles also confuse the smell of plastic with food. In January of 2019, 15 loggerhead sea turtles were held in tanks exposed to many scents. The scents were water (as a control), shrimp, and new, ocean soaked plastic.
The turtles had ignored the smell of water and the plastic. However, when the scientists puffed air containing the scent of ocean stewed plastic the turtles increased their sniffing above water. This is a typical foraging behaviour. Scientists said that this here may be the reason why so many turtles get entangled and consume plastic.
I think that if this information and research were to be shared with more people that there could perhaps be a little more of a change in how careful we are with our plastic. Now knowing that turtles try and scout out plastic because they think it is food, is a turning point to make people change their lifestyles.
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