Researchers have found out that hungry sea turtles eat plastic because they smell like food for them.
Scientists discovered that plastic bags smell like food to sea turtles because of the algae and bacteria that accumulate to them while they are in the sea.
In a new study that was published earlier this month, researchers found out that captive sea turtles responded almost identically when they were presented with food compared with a plastic bag, which had been soaked in water.
The researchers also found out that sea turtles, who keep their noses out of the water 3 times longer, can smell the plastic bags compared to other control smells.
It is long been known that plastic materials have caused massive deaths in marine life.
It is said that 52 percent of the world’s sea turtle population has eaten plastic waste because they thought it was food.
Previously it was believed that turtles eat plastic because it looked a lot like jellyfish, algae, and other marine species that sea turtles would eat.
The study, which was published in the journal Current Biology, suggests that sea turtles could be proactively seeking out plastics because of the smell that they send out.
According to Nick Mallos, the senior director of the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Program, the findings of the study are concerning as it suggests why turtles are eating plastic.
Matthew Savoca, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, and the co-author of the study said that the study proves there are really complex evolutionary mechanisms that govern how animals are finding food.
He theorized that sea turtles have evolved to pursue certain smells that signal food, and therefore are draw to the smell of the algae and bacteria when they gather on plastic in the ocean.
Savoca said, “The ocean is not this large grocery store where there’s food everywhere, so these animals have to become hyper-specialized to survive.”
The bad thing about this is that nearly all of the 7 species of turtles are endangered, and eating plastic will not help in increasing the declining population of the species.
Now as humans, it is our job to stop throwing plastic in the ocean and try to use more materials that can be used more than once in the future.