Plastic particles that look alike natural food are more likely to be swallowed
Green sea turtles are more likely to swallow plastic that resembles seagrass - their natural diet. They “favour” narrow plastic particles in natural colors such as green and black, according to a recent study recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Scientists from the University of Exeter and the Society for the Protection of Turtles (Cyprus) studied guts of turtles washed up on beaches in Cyprus. Plastic particles were found in all turtles whose gastrointestinal tract could be examined.
The researchers could not determine what role the plastic played in the death of the turtles. Most of them probably died as a result of interaction with fishing nets. "Earlier research has shown that leatherback turtles eat plastic that resembles their prey like jellyfish and we wanted to know if something similar could happen to green sea turtles," explains Dr. Emily Duncan from the University of Exeter." Sea turtles are primarily visual predators - they can select food according to size and shape - and in this study we found strong evidence that green sea turtles prefer plastic in certain sizes, shapes and colors - the plastic we found in these turtles."
The study found that smaller turtles tend to contain more plastic, possibly because the young animals are less experienced (and therefore eat the wrong food) or because eating habits change with age and size. Of the 34 turtles examined, scientists were able to examine the full gastrointestinal tract of 19. All of these turtles contained plastic particles of between three and 183 in number.