Deceptive scents: why sea turtles are damn attracted to plastic?

In the World ocean floats a huge number of plastic waste, causing great harm to its inhabitants. Sea turtles, for example, regularly eating such a waste that a lot of worried scientists. Recently, the same researchers from the US found out, than the plastic attracts sea creatures.

every year in the oceans are millions of metric tons of plastic waste. All this garbage consume not only fish and other ocean creatures, but birds. Scientists project that by 2050 the plastics will be contained in the stomachs of absolutely all seabirds. Moreover, plastic waste entered the food of the people.

According to experts, 52% of all sea turtles consume a particular kind of plastic. Researchers from Australia found that the risk of death of the turtles from plastic increases of 22%, is the individual to eat just one piece. The probability of death increases by 50% if the animal is “regaled” 14 fragments of plastic.

In this regard, professionals want to understand what caused the behavior of the turtles, which leads to such “errors in diet”.

a Group of scientists from the University of Florida and Stanford University have conducted experiments with the participation of 15 young loggerhead turtles. All animals were raised in captivity. Experts recorded on video the reactions of sea creatures to various stimuli.

Previously, scientists have found that during the foraging turtles rely on odors. The problem is that “boobgate” plastic waste (that is, the pieces of trash who have chosen microbes, algae and plants) capable of emitting the same smell as regular victims of these animals.

when experts began to wonder if turtles can distinguish the smell of waste from the “aromas” of their normal food.

They filled the reservoir, where there were turtles, different flavors, and found that the animals reacted to “biologising” plastic same as for ordinary food. So, they kept their nostrils under water three times longer heard the smell of the plastic (compared to control aromas).

In experiments researchers took part 15 turtles.Photo Joseph Pfaller.

“We found that loggerhead turtles react to odors from biologising plastics just as they respond to odors [their typical] of food. This suggests that plastic debris attracts turtles not only by how it looks but how it smells,” explains Joseph Pfaller (Joseph Pfaller) from the University of Florida.

According to him, such “olfactory trap” may help explain why sea turtles are so often swallow and get tangled up in plastics.

By the way, in 2016, another group of experts found that sea birds — albatrosses and petrels — also mistook pieces of plastic in the ocean for food because of the related odors.

the Authors recent work hope to learn more about these processes by studying the chemical from which the inhabitants of the sea so fascinated with plastic.

Scientific article on the results of the study published in Current Biology.

By the way, some researchers are looking for ways to save the ocean from plastic. Thus, the authors of the project “Conduct.Science” ( talked about The Ocean Cleanup system is designed to eliminate the Great Pacific garbage patch and clean from such debris of the river, through which the plastic and falls into the ocean.

Text: To.Science