In 2013, a study was conducted on the presence of marine debris in loggerhead sea turtles along the coast of Tuscany, Italy. Scientists collected stranded turtles in the north Tyrrhenian Sea and inspected their stomach and intestines for debris. They found that plastics were the main type of debris ingested by the loggerheads, specifically sheet plastics. The loggerheads mistake the plastic for jellyfish, which is a key part of their diet. Over 71% of turtles studied were found to have marine debris in their body. Most of it was found in the intestine, which is good because it means the plastic passes through the turtles and is excreted, rather than staying in their stomach. The plastic doesn’t kill them, but it does prohibit them from getting the nutrients they need from real food. From this study it was decided that these loggerhead turtles are the perfect species to use as a bioindicator to measure trends in marine litter. Hopefully, by continuing to study these turtles, a better understanding of the effects of debris on marine animals can be gained, as well as a plan to reduce the amount of plastics that are in the ocean and that are currently being dumped into it.
The link below shows the harmful effects of plastics on different types of turtles across the world. At 18 seconds, the clip starts to talk about the effects of ingesting plastic on the sea turtles. It shows images of the sheet plastic being pulled from the turtle, putting what was mentioned above into context.
-by Alison Williams
Campani, T., Baini, M., Giannetti, M., Cancelli, F., Mancusi, C., Serena, F., Marsili, L., Casini, S., and Fossi, M. 2013. “Presence of plastic debris in loggerhead turtle stranded along the Tuscany coasts of the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals (Italy).” Marine Pollution Bulletin. pp. 225-230.