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EM Duncan, JA Arrowsmith, CE Bain, H Bowdery, AC Broderick, T Chalmers, WJ Fuller, TS Galloway, JH Lee, PK Lindeque, LCM Omeyer, RTE Snape and BJ Godley
Abstract
Understanding the drivers of key interactions between marine vertebrates and plastic pollution is now considered a research priority. Sea turtles are primarily visual predators, with the ability to discriminate according to colour and shape; therefore these factors play a role in feeding choices. Classification methodologies of ingested plastic currently do not record these variables, however here, refined protocols allow us to test the hypothesis that plastic is selectively ingested when it resembles the food items of green turtles (Chelonia mydas). Turtles in the eastern Mediterranean displayed strong diet-related selectivity towards certain types (sheet and threadlike), colours (black, clear and green) and shapes (linear items strongly preferred) of plastic when compared to the environmental baseline of plastic beach debris. There was a significant negative relationship between size of turtle (curved carapace length) and number/mass of plastic pieces ingested, which may be explained through naivety and/or ontogenetic shifts in diet. Further investigation in other species and sites are needed to more fully ascertain the role of selectivity in plastic ingestion in this marine vertebrate group.
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