Quantcast

Another Reason to Ditch Plastic—It Smells Like Food to Fish

Anchovies are eating plastic because it smells like prey, study finds. Photo credit: David Abercrombie/Flickr

We know that the massive amount of plastic that's continually dumped into our oceans can end up in the stomachs of marine species (and ultimately on our plates), but why would they want to eat it?

Well, new research suggests that fish are not just accidentally gobbling up our plastic trash—they could be actively seeking it out because they like how the debris smells and are confusing it for their natural prey.


The study, published Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, presents "the first behavioral evidence that plastic debris may be chemically attractive to marine consumers."

"These chemical cues may lure consumers, such as anchovy, into regions of high plastic density and activate foraging behaviors, thus making it difficult to ignore or reject plastic items as potential prey," the paper states.

As New Scientist explains from the study, when plastic enters the ocean, the debris gets quickly covered by algae and releases an odor similar to krill, the natural prey for certain fish such as anchovies. The smell of the plastics then sets off the anchovies' foraging and feeding behavior.

Matthew Savoca, from the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Monterey, California and the lead author of the study, told to the Guardian, "When plastic floats at sea its surface gets colonized by algae within days or weeks, a process known as biofouling. Previous research has shown that this algae produces and emits DMS, an algal based compound that certain marine animals use to find food. [The research shows] plastic may be more deceptive to fish than previously thought. If plastic both looks and smells like food, it is more difficult for animals like fish to distinguish it as not food."

And yes, the study also suggests that since these fish are confusing plastics for food, it could impact species that are higher up on the food chain, including humans.

"Given the trophic position of forage fish, these findings have considerable implications for aquatic food webs and possibly human health," the authors conclude.

Sponsored
Climate activist Greta Thunberg addresses the European Commission on Feb. 21 in Brussels, Belgium. Sylvain Lefevre / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

Sixteen-year-old climate action leader Greta Thunberg stood alongside European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker Thursday in Brussels as he indicated—after weeks of climate strikes around the world inspired by the Swedish teenager—that the European Union has heard the demands of young people and pledged more than $1 trillion over the next seven years to address the crisis of a rapidly heating planet.

In the financial period beginning in 2021, Juncker said, the EU will devote a quarter of its budget to solving the crisis.

Read More Show Less

A giant bee the size of an adult thumb was found alive for the first time in nearly 40 years, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A new study reveals the health risks posed by the making, use and disposal of plastics. Jeffrey Phelps / Getty Images

With eight million metric tons of plastic entering the world's oceans every year, there is growing concern about the proliferation of plastics in the environment. Despite this, surprisingly little is known about the full impact of plastic pollution on human health.

But a first-of-its-kind study released Tuesday sets out to change that. The study, Plastic & Health: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet, is especially groundbreaking because it looks at the health impacts of every stage in the life cycle of plastics, from the extraction of the fossil fuels that make them to their permanence in the environment. While previous studies have focused on particular products, manufacturing processes or moments in the creation and use of plastics, this study shows that plastics pose serious health risks at every stage in their production, use and disposal.

Read More Show Less
IKEA is working on a specially-designed, air-purifying curtain called the GUNRID. IKEA

Air pollution within the home causes 3.8 million deaths a year, according to the World Health Organization. A recent University of Colorado in Boulder study reported by The Guardian found that cooking a full Thanksgiving meal could raise levels of particulate matter 2.5 in the house higher than the levels averaged in New Delhi, the world's sixth most polluted city.

But soon, you will be able to shop for a solution in the same place you buy your budget roasting pans. IKEA is working on a specially-designed, air-purifying curtain called the GUNRID.

Read More Show Less
The first member of the giant tortoise species Chelonoidis phantasticus to be seen in more than 100 years. RODRIGO BUENDIA / AFP / Getty Images

A rare species of giant tortoise, feared extinct for more than 100 years, was sighted on the Galápagos island of Fernandina Sunday, the Ecuadorian government announced.

Read More Show Less