Earth’s largest animals are seeing their health jeopardized by some of the smallest man-made objects, in fact a new study found that through filter baleen, the Mysticetis off the coast of California, they ingest millions of pieces of microplastic every daya consumption that could be toxic.
Plastic pollution is a problem that has continued, and still continues to plague the environment, especially the ocean. Earlier this year, theOrganization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a relationship which states that the world produces “twice as much plastic as it did two decades ago”, and much of it disperses into the environment. According to the group, OECD countries, including the United States, account for 35% of microplastic losses, an effect that represents a “serious concern”.
This problem is only expected to worsen over the next few decades and, according to the researchers, large marine animals, including the Mysticetes, may be at “extreme risk” of ingesting these plastics, which are tiny synthetic polymers less than 5 millimeters long. size of the eraser found on the head of a new pencil.
In a study published last Tuesday in Nature Communications, researchers said the highest concentrations of these microplastics are between 50 and 250 meters (164 to 820 feet) below the ocean’s surface, the same depths at which they mainly feed the Mysticeti. The whales – including the 29 fin whales, 126 blue whales and humpback whales the researchers studied off the coast of California – are filter feeders, meaning that instead of chewing fish, most of their diet comes from eating large sips of water and from ingesting the numerous small animals inside, namely the krill.
The Mysticeti study and what it turned out
Researchers studied this category of whales, the Mysticeti, from 2010 to 2019, mainly around Monterey Bay, to better understand how much plastic they were ingesting, and found that whales that feed on krill are exposed to significantly more pollution from microplastics.
“They are not simply eating individual prey. And so maybe they can get a lot of their plastic by simply filtering the polluted water or from prey that had previously eaten plastic “
he said Matthew Savoca, one of the authors of the studyto our colleagues at CBS News, who further stated that the researchers believe that “the 98-99% of all the plastic they are ingesting ”comes from their prey rather than directly from the water itself.
Among the Mysticeti included in the study are blue whales, the largest animals on the planet, which can weigh up to 150 tons (330,000 lbs), grow up to 35 meters (110 feet) in length, and live to be around 90 years old. and in what Savoca described as a conservative estimate, it was found that members of this species along the California coast consume about 10 million pieces of microplastic – up to 43 kilograms (96 lbs) – every day, “or maybe even more”.
Unlike the Mysticeti, a whale that feeds mainly on fish, on the other hand, consumes around 200,000 pieces per day, according to the study. days, weeks or even months “, particularly during breeding, stating later:
“The whales either eat a huge amount of food, or they don’t eat at all, and they can switch back and forth quite impressively.”
Researchers, led by Ph.D. candidate Shirel Kahane-Rapportwere able to determine these numbers by cross-examining estimates of how much microplastic pollution there is in the regions they analyzed, how much of that plastic is consumed by krill, and how much krill is consumed by whales.
Most microplastics come from semi-synthetic fibers of clothing, furniture, ropes, and other materials.
“It is worth saying that these blue whales, for example, could eat 10, 15 or even 20 tons of food per day. So, the amount of plastic they are eating versus the amount of food they are eating is miniscule. That doesn’t mean it’s not important or dangerous. “
Researchers fear that even if the ingestion of plastic is small compared to what Mysticeti eat, it could still have a toxic impact, not least because as Savoca rightly said, plastic is made with chemical additives, and while many of these additives they can spread in ocean water, many more remain on the pieces of plastic that are ingested, and many pieces of plastic also become a “cocktail of contaminants” as other contaminants in the water stick to the pieces.
It is still not entirely clear how this plastic interacts with the digestive system of the Mysticeti, although it is the subject of research, with the scholar stating:
“The amount of plastic we have found these whales could ingest suggests that perhaps these toxins could have effects that we are not yet fully aware of. Not only for whales, but also for other animals that eat plastic… This is by no means an exclusive program for whales; at this point it is almost universal ”.
Among other things, some microplastics are even smaller than 5 millimeters, and have been shown to be able to pass through the intestinal wall and into the tissues of the human body. Scientists discovered microplastics in human feces in 2018 and earlier this year, in lung tissue, and Savoca said it was also found in human placenta, breast milk and blood.
“This is the world we all live in and these same problems are talking about a whale… we are too… This is a problem where animals act in some way as sentinels. They are canaries in the coal mine for these ecosystems and these food webs and food chains that we too are a part of ”.
If you are attracted to science or technology, keep following us, so you don’t miss the latest news and news from all over the world!
#Mysticeti #types #whales #risk #plastic