CORAL ARE EATING PLASTIC BECAUSTE THEY LIKE HOW IT TASTES
According to new evidence, coral are eating plastic activelly. Previously, researchers believed corals ate microplastic debris because these small floating particles might look like prey. But corals have no eyes to selectionate plastic as food source. Actually, corals ingest many plastic types, including weathered types often found in oceans. Small and hard particles can damage the digestive system of these organisms,
resulting in death in numerous cases.
Under lab conditions corals ate microplastic, but preferred microplastic no covered in bacterias or seaweed, suggesting the plastic itself contain something that makes it tasty. In other experiment corals ingested many plastic types while
mostly ignoring organic-free sand, suggesting that plastic contains
In fact, corals retained ~8% of ingested microplastic for 24 h or more. Retained particles can have consequences for energetics, pollutant toxicity and trophic transfer.
GIF: Coral polyp ingesting a white plastic particle video here.
small fragmented particles of plastic with less than 5 millimeters in
diameter, are accumulating in the oceans and are now are ubiquitous in
the marine environment. They pose a major threat to most of sea
animals, from small invertebrate, to cetaceans, including humans.
Researchers need to investigate more in order to identify the specific additives that
make the plastic tasty to corals, and determine if the same chemicals
act as feeding stimulants to other marine species. For example, some seabird species are atracted to the dimethyl sulfided from microplastics, a keystone odorant for natural trophic interactions, in other words, seabirds are stimulate to feed on microplastic by it smells like food.
White microplastic engulfed by a coral polyp. Credit: Alex Seymour.
- Reference: Allen et al., 2017.
Chemoreception drives plastic consumption in a hard coral. Marine Pollution Bulletin.