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Whales eat millions of microplastics every day

Blue whales can eat up to 10 million pieces of microplastic each day, according to a study led by researchers at Stanford University.

The study, published in Nature Communications, focused on blue, fin and humpback whales and found that the largest mammals on the planet ingest plastic from their prey.

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that form when larger pieces such as bottles, food wrappers, and plastic bags break down. A clump of microplastics is about the size of a grain of sand.

Most plastic products take hundreds of years to decompose. For example, a plastic bottle can take 450 years to decompose.

Researchers at Stanford University studied whales off the coast of California from 2010 to 2019. The whales were feeding mainly between 50 and 250 meters below sea level, which is “consistent with the highest concentrations of microplastics in the open ocean,” the study said.

The largest whale species, the blue whale, reportedly ingests an estimated 10 million pieces of plastic per day. Researchers believe that this kind of food source for whales increases the amount of microplastics the creature consumes.

“They are lower in the food chain than would be expected by their enormous size, closer to where plastic in water is,” said co-author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the Stanford Institute of Oceanography. One Matthew Savoca said: Central Coast of California, said in a news release. “There’s only one link: krill eat plastic, then whales eat krill.”

Humpback whales, which eat fish such as herring and anchovies, ingest an estimated 200,000 microplastics each day. The researchers found that the whale, which primarily eats krill, consumes at least 1 million per day.

Fin whales eat both small fish and krill, and ingest an estimated 3 to 10 million pieces of plastic each day.

“For whales that forage in more polluted areas such as the Mediterranean, the consumption rate could be even higher,” Savoca said.

According to the study, researchers believe that almost all microplastics come directly from the prey that whales eat, rather than from the large amounts of seawater consumed during hunting. The finding made Shirel Kahane-Rapport, the study’s principal investigator, concerned about the amount of nutrients the whales were consuming.

“If a patch is dense with prey but poorly nutritious, it’s a waste of their time, because they’re essentially eating garbage.

The impact of microplastics on whales is still largely unknown as researchers race to figure out what it means for whale health. The study by Stanford University is the “first step” in a long-running study of microplastics in marine ecosystems, researchers said.

Whales aren’t the only ones consuming microplastics

Previous studies have also found plastic debris in human blood and stool.

According to a study by Environment International, some microplastics were detected in nearly 80% of human body samples. It was also found that microplastics can travel through the body and lodge in certain organs.

Previous studies have associated microplastics in humans with breathing food, water, and pollution.

Last summer, researchers at the University of Toronto discovered that Lake Ontario was flooded with microplastics. Researchers collected plastic bins from the lake in the summer of 2021 and found that each bucket contained about 1,600 microplastics after one 24-hour period.

Whales eat millions of microplastics every day

Source link Whales eat millions of microplastics every day

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