Boy, that's yummy — but why?
Surprisingly, that's exactly what scientists at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment found out. I mean, scientists have known for a long time that marine animals mistakenly eat plastic debris. They thought it was mainly because the tiny bits might look like prey. But a new study suggests there may be an additional reason for the potentially harmful behavior: The plastic just plain tastes good.
"Corals in our experiments ate all types of plastics but preferred unfouled microplastics by a threefold difference over microplastics covered in bacteria," said Austin S. Allen, a PhD student at Duke.
So, the scientists figured that the plastic itself would contain something that makes it tasty.
"When plastic comes from the factory, it has hundreds of chemical additives on it. Any one of these chemicals or a combination of them could be acting as a stimulant that makes plastic appealing to corals," said Alexander C. Seymour, who co-led the study with Allen.
More research is needed. But these first, and indeed surprising results were published October 23 in the online edition of the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.
Time running out to save the world's coral reefs!