Schildpad eet plastic omdat het naar eten ruikt



Schildpadden en andere zeedieren eten plastics die de mens in zee loost. Omdat ze die voor voedsel houden.

Iedereen kent het dramatische beeld: een zeeschildpad die volledig verstrikt is geraakt in plastic. En dat is niet het enige risico van deze vervuiling; schildpadden en andere zeebewoners werken de plastics ook naar binnen. Waarom eten ze die troep?

Een populaire theorie is die van de ‘plastic kwal’: een plastic tasje dat in het water zweeft lijkt op een kwal en dus op een lekker hapje. Dat kan niet de hele waarheid zijn, schrijven Amerikaanse onderzoekers maandag in vakblad Current Biology, want schildpadden consumeren ook plastics die helemaal niet op kwallen of ander eten lijken. Sleutel voor de verklaring ligt in geur.

Een van die onderzoekers is Matthew Savoca, van het Hopkins Marine Station in Californië, die al enkele jaren dit reukspoor volgt. Dat spoor begint bij plankton, het kleine leven in de oceanen dat voor veel zeebewoners een belangrijke voedingsbron is. Plankton laat zich ruiken omdat het bij de spijsvertering bepaalde gassen uitstoot. Die geur wordt door grotere dieren in, op en boven de zee gebruikt om het voedzame plankton op te sporen.

Savoca begon met bekende gegevens van zo’n 65 vogelsoorten (stormvogelachtigen om precies te zijn), waarvan sommige dat geurspoor gebruiken en andere niet. Die eersten bleken veel vaker met plastics in de maag te worden aangetroffen dan de laatsten.

Nu heeft Savoca, met collega’s van verschillende Amerikaanse universiteiten, experimenteel aangetoond dat hetzelfde mechanisme zeeschildpadden opbreekt. In een ruim bassin werden schildpadden samengebracht met echt voedsel, met schoon plastic, en met plastic dat een paar weken in zeewater had gelegen. Voor de duidelijkheid: ze kregen niet de kans die proefstukken naar binnen te werken; de onderzoekers noteerden hoe vaak de schildpadden hun neus boven het water uitstaken. Want dat is een aanwijzing dat ze eetbaars op het spoor zijn.

Dat gebeurde niet met het schone plastics, maar wel met het echte voer (natuurlijk) en met het plastic dat al een tijd in zee had gelegen. Op dat plastic is leven gaan groeien, concluderen de onderzoekers, waardoor het voor schildpadden en andere zeebewoners in geur niet van echt voedsel te onderscheiden is.

Het slechte nieuws is dat je dit niet kunt oplossen: plastic raakt in zeewater onvermijdelijk begroeid, zeggen de biologen. Voorkomen dat plastics in zee belanden, is het enige dat de mens kan doen.

bron: trouw


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