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The smell of marine plastic may attract seabirds

Cara J

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A recent study from the University of California, Davis might help explain why some seabirds eat so much plastic debris. While it’s widely thought that birds visually mistake plastic for food, the study found that smell may also trick the birds into ingesting plastic floating on the ocean’s surface. Birds of the order Procellariiformes – the albatrosses, shearwaters, and petrels – are highly olfactory seabirds that spend most of their time foraging over the open ocean, using their sense of smell to find squid, fish, and zooplankton, like krill. Previous studies have shown that some Procellariiformes species are responsive to the chemical smell of dimethyl sufide (DMS), using it as a foraging cue to locate krill. When krill and other zooplankton feed on algae, the algae releases DMS; thus, for some seabirds, the presence of DMS indicates the presence of food. An albatross with a stomach full of plastic. ©USFWS/Chris Jordan Floating plastic debris often becomes coated in DMS-producing algae, and researchers at the University of California, Davis wanted to test if ocean plastics acquire the chemical signature of DMS while in the marine environment. Graduate student Matthew Savoca and his team tied bags of the three most common types [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/the-smell-of-marine-plastic-may-attract-seabirds/

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