For the first time, plastic microfibers have been discovered in wild animals’ stool, from South American fur seals. The findings were made by a team of Morris Animal Foundation-funded researchers at the University of Georgia, who suggest examining scat from pinnipeds can be an efficient way to monitor environmental levels of microfibers and microplastics in the environment. Their study was published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin.
“It’s no secret that plastic pollution is one of the major threats to marine ecosystems, but we’re learning now just how widespread that problem is,” said Dr. Mauricio Seguel, a research fellow at the University of Georgia. “These samples are invisible to the naked eye. We want to understand factors that are driving their distribution and what this means for animals in the Southern Hemisphere.”
The team examined the scat of 51 female South American fur seals on the remote Guafo Island, in southwestern Chile, from December 2015 to March 2016. Each sample’s inorganic material was dissolved in a solution in a lab, leaving only the microscopic, plastic particles to be analyzed.
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