28 March 2011

From the stomach of a sea turtle

Pictured above are the stomach contents of a juvenile sea turtle accidentally captured off the coast of Argentina...

One anecdote in the article, written by biologists Wallace Nichols of the California Academy of Science and the University of British Columbia’s Colette Wabnitz, stands out. “Relief of gastrointestinal obstruction of a green turtle off Melbourne beach, Florida, resulted in the animal defecating 74 foreign objects over a period of a month, including four types of latex balloons, different types of hard plastic, a piece of carpet-like material, and two 2- to 4-mm tar balls, they wrote.
From Wired, via Neatorama.  See also my post on "Death by Plastic" re albatrosses on Midway Island, and this disgusting video of a Romanian river.


  1. The human apocalypse can't come soon enough.

  2. When I read the word "tar balls" I reminded of various comments from people concerning oil spills and oil in particular. It may shock some people but there are those who will comment that oil is natural, that it's not going to harm in the long term; however arsenic is natural too, but you wouldn't say it's harmless, would you.

    The true tradegy of this is the fact that plastic does not degrade the same way paper does, and when it's out in the ocean it will be there for hundreds or thousands of years. Here's a wikipedia article on Marine Debris: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_debris

  3. I used to raise turtles and tortoises. When they would see something they thought was food, they would bite it, hold it for a moment and then spit it out if it wasn't food. They could tell the difference between shoe laces and worms, carpet and lettuce. Why aren't sea turtles doing this? Or is the plastic in the fish and the turtles are eating the fish?

  4. That's a good question, cerebulon. I would guess that one factor is the size differential; sea turtles can range up to a thousand pounds. This photo came from a "juvenile" which could still be a hundred pounds or more in size - probably bigger than the ones you raised.

    The other factor might be that floating plastic bits can become colonized with a variety of marine critters, which would then coat the fragment and disguise it during ingestion, but be dissolved in the stomach and leave the insoluble plastic behind.


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