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Young Fish Now Prefers Eating Plastic Over Real Food, Study Finds

Jun 06, 2016 08:04 AM EDT
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A group of small fish
A group of small bony fish in the Gulf of Eilat (Gulf of Aqaba), Israel
(Photo : Yuvalr/Wikimedia Commons)

The appetite of young fish have changed over time, and now, scientists say that they prefer eating microplastics from larger manufactured plastics that pollute waterways.

According to a research from Uppsala University published in the journal Science, baby fish choose to eat particles from microplastic than their natural diet of zooplankton. Microplastic particles come from plastic waste materials that have broken down in oceans and other water forms.

CS Monitor notes that this is the first evidence that microplastic is a threat to the environment. Microplastic tend to settle in shallow parts of the waterways and oceans, which affects in fish development. A study last year estimates that there are 8 million tons of plastic waste dumped into oceans per year, which means that young fish will be more keen to eating these pollutants.

Peter Eklöv, an ecologist from Uppsala University said, "This is the first time an animal has been found to preferentially feed on plastic particles and is cause for concern.

It is indeed alarming as the researchers found out that the drastic change in the diet of baby fish has resulted to stunted growth and increasing mortality rates. Apart from that, it also alters their innate behavior.

"Fish reared in different concentrations of microplastic particles have reduced hatching rates and display abnormal behaviors," explained Oona Lönnstedt, lead author of the study. She also pointed out that the water tested in the study have the same microplastic concentration usually present in the oceans, achieving a similar representation of the real situation.

The study also revealed that fish that feed on plastic not only change in behavior but are also less active and tend to ignore predators that usually triggers"innate antipredator behaviors." This makes them four times likely to be eaten.

The recent discovery sheds a light on the need of using biodegradable products to reduce microplastic waste that does not only pollute our oceans, it is also slowly killing the marine organisms living there.

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