Litter in oceans represents a great threat to the animals that inhabit them.
The Woman Post | Catalina Mejía
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Plastic waste can physically injure wildlife either externally by suffocation or entanglement or internally by blocking their gastrointestinal tract. It is worth learning how microplastics have affected dolphin populations, to raise awareness on ways to avoid this.
According to Jambeck and colleagues, over 13 million tonnes of plastics enter the oceans per year. However, microplastics may cause a more pervasive threat to marine life due to their abundance, small size, and bioavailability to many forms of life within the food webs. A report by Guzzeti and colleagues, states that when ingested or inhaled, microplastics can affect feeding and energy reserves, reproduction, and modify the brain and gastrointestinal function of marine organisms.
Additionally, microplastics can be thought of as vectors that carry toxic chemicals used as additives during the manufacturing process of different products. Hence, when animals ingest microplastics, this is an avenue for chemicals to enter their organisms and spread further in food webs.
A recent study by Novillo and colleagues evaluated the presence of microplastics in striped dolphins. Their results showed that the striped dolphin is frequently exposed to microplastics, mainly fibers. Surprisingly, they also found that microplastic presence in their bodies was relatively small considering their body size. This means that the concern is more associated with the chemical substances that can harm their health and affect their population than with the number of microplastics in their digestive system.
On the other hand, a report of microplastics in the gastrointestinal tract of stranded bottlenose dolphins by Battaglia and colleagues found that fiber was the most abundant microplastic 76.1%, particularly white fibers. Fragments, films, and foams were also observed. Their study is the first originating from the Western Atlantic Ocean and the southeastern United States. It is worth mentioning that their main finding of primary fibers in dolphins was consistent with other studies.
Finally, a study by Zhang and colleagues investigated the presence of microplastics in Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins. Their results showed that dolphins near urban areas had more microplastics than those near rural areas. Consistent with other findings, the most predominant microplastics found were fiber-shaped, white, and composed of polypropylene.
So what are you waiting for to reduce your consumption of synthetic clothing, tennis balls, laundry and dishwasher pods, glitter, wet wipes, tea bags, and takeaway cups? They all contain microplastics. Dolphins as well as other marine animals need your collaboration urgently.