Scavenging as a pathway for plastic ingestion by marine animals
Plastic pollution is prevalent worldwide and affects marine wildlife from urbanized beaches to pristine oceanic islands. However, the ecological basis and mechanisms that result in marine animal ingestion of plastic debris are still relatively unknown, despite recent advances. We investigated the relationship between scavenging behavior and plastic ingestion using green turtles, Chelonia mydas, as a model. Diet analysis of C. mydas showed that sea turtles engaging in scavenging behavior ingested significantly more plastic debris than individuals that did not engage in this foraging strategy. We argue that opportunistic scavenging behavior, an adaptive behavior in most marine ecosystems, may now pose a threat to a variety of marine animals due to the current widespread plastic pollution found in oceans.