Sea Turtles Fooled by Prey-Like Plastic Debris

Our burgeoning plastic waste—arising from the packaging of everything from food and drinks to toiletries and medicines—isn’t just littering the oceans, it is choking marine life. Almost twice as many endangered green sea turtles are ingesting plastics compared with 25 years ago, according to a study last year, led by Qamar Schuyler, a postdoctoral fellow from the University of Queensland.

But why are foraging sea turtles going after plastic debris? Can they not distinguish between real prey and plastic? Now, Schuyler’s team has found the answers, confirming what scientists have long suspected. Their recent study revealed that sea turtles eat plastic debris mistakenly because it resembles their natural prey; they prefer soft and flexible plastics, such as clear plastic bags that look like jellyfish.

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