3 million per dayWhales near Auckland, New Zealand, eat about 3 million micro-plastic particles a day. Researchers at the University of Leiden and the University of Auckland have come to this conclusion in a study of whale remains.
Thiez Bosker, an associate professor at Leiden University, participated in the study. He explains: “Microplastics are tiny particles of plastic that are ubiquitous in nature. Large pieces of plastic break and eventually they become so small that we cannot see them. Everything in our water, air, and food contains tiny plastic particles. So it is not surprising to find microplastics in whale waste.
Yet the number is huge, says the university lecturer. Bright whale droppings, jointly studied by universities, show that animals consume about 3 million microplastic particles a day. Whales consume about 25,000 microplastic components per bite. It comes mainly from prey, grill and plankton. Only one in 1000 microplastics comes directly from water. Bosker says the whales swim near the metropolis of Auckland. “So they are urban whales,” he jokes.
Each time he saw the whale doing his job, he pulled it out of the water with his net
It is not yet certain whether microplastics will actually affect the health of whales. Bosker: That’s the next question. Such research actually involves three steps: do we find it in nature and is it absorbed by the animals there? We both know that for sure now. Now we are in the third stage: is it bad? We do not know yet. There are theories, for example, that very small particles are harmful, but in science we are not yet sure. Together with Auckland, we will come up with a way to evaluate this.
But how on earth can you get a whale flower? “It’s even harder,” the researcher laughs. “The whale’s remains are very liquid. It does not float suddenly because it dissolves quickly. We could not always get on the boat near the whale. So, we teamed up with a local whale safari that goes to sea with tourists every day in search of animals. Each time he saw the whale doing his job, they dug it out of the water with a net and carried it to the University of Auckland. It can be very simple.
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