BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A new study reached the conclusion that microplastics might be to corals just what the so-called junk food is to humans, an unhealthy snack that they nonetheless consume and seemingly like.
Researchers determined this after analyzing corals collected off the coast of North Carolina.
Microplastics, and Unhealthy Meal that Still Gets Consumed
Nicholas School of the Environment from Duke University scientists are behind this new study. They exposed the collected corals to quite a variety of food options. This included bits of sand and also tiny plastic parts known as microplastics.
According to the study team, even when they had to make a choice, the corals still chose to go for the bits of tiny plastics.
“Corals in our experiments ate all types of plastics but preferred unfouled microplastics by a threefold difference over microplastics covered in bacteria,” stated Austin S. Allen, one of the researchers part of the study.
Based on these results, the team hypothesized that the corals might actually ‘enjoy’ eating plastic. So they will be looking what precisely in the composition of this material makes it appealing to this marine lifeform.
Research will also reportedly look to establish if other marine animals share the same taste for plastics as the corals. By finding out what exactly attract marine life to the material, scientists are hoping to do so something to combat this unexpected preference.
As the currently produced plastic contains something that appeals to corals, creating microplastics that “taste bad” might help reduce part of the problem, believes the team.
Although corals might “enjoy” the taste of microplastics, these are rather bad for them, as plastic masses are completely indigestible. Because of this, plastics might create blockages and give a “false sense of being full”. This also might lead to a reduction in their energy reserves.
Study results are set to be released in Volume 124, Issue 1 of the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.
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