Birds Can Be Drawn to the Scent of Plastic By Tatiana Schlossberg

Summary of Text: Seabirds have been observed over the last few years eating a high quantity of plastic junk in the ocean in addition to their usual diet of krill and other small organisms. Scientists had thought the birds were eating the plastic because they mistook it for food, but there is actually a more scientific explanation for this peculiar behavior. The tiny pieces of plastic in the water release a chemical called dimethyl sulfide, the same chemical emitted by some of the organisms that make up the birds' diet. The birds recognize the scent of the chemical and mistake it for the scent of their prey, resulting in the unfortunate high level of plastic consumption.

Check out this video about the effects of plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean

Analysis of Text: To me this is a prime example of animals being too adapted for their own good. These birds have a sense of smell that is extremely well tuned to the indicator scent of their prey, but it has become so fixed on this scent that it is now leading birds to consume harmful plastics. I wonder if future generations of birds will eventually develop the ability to distinguish between the scent of prey and the similar scent of plastic, as there are negative implications to the introduction of what is essentially garbage into these seabirds' diet.

Check out this video about the massive (and growing) plastic island in the middle of the Pacific

My Big Takeaway: The sad part about this is that this problem wouldn't even exist if humans didn't dump so much plastic waste into the oceans. There are literally floating islands of plastic fouling up the worlds oceans and marine ecosystems because people either don't know how or are just too lazy to properly dispose of their plastic waste. Innocent creatures, such as these birds, are suffering because of it, and its very easy to fix if people took some initiative and some ownership for their actions.

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Maxwell Plonsker
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