Seabirds' cholesterol levels raised through plastic ingestion | 7/18/2019 | Staff
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Plastic found in the stomach of flesh-footed shearwaters. Credit: Dr Alex Bond

A new study of seabirds that had ingested plastic debris has revealed the range of impacts on their health and physiology including a rise in cholesterol levels.

Research - Team - Scientists - Dr - Alex

The research was undertaken by an international team of scientists including Dr. Alex Bond, the Senior Curator of Birds at the Natural History Museum.

This work, part of a longer-term study being carried out on Lord Howe Island 600 kilometres off the eastern coast of Australia, has revealed that this remote island is home to some of the most plastic contaminated birds in the world.

Dr - Bond - Population - Shearwaters - Decade

Dr. Bond has been studying this population of flesh-footed shearwaters for almost a decade.

"Most of the work looking at the effects of ocean plastic on wildlife involves mortality. The seabirds we encountered alive also had plastic in them, and we wanted to understand what effects that plastic ingestion might be having."

Team - Chicks - Diet - Fish - Adult

The team discovered that rather than feeding their chicks the usual diet of fish, adult birds have been providing their young with shards of plastic, including bottle tops and biro lids. Previous findings have revealed that between 80 to 90 percent of all chicks studied had at least one piece of plastic in their stomach. In one extreme case 274 pieces, weighing 64 grams, were found in a single bird.

The new study was led by The Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies' Dr. Jennifer Lavers.

Dr - Lavers - Shearwater - Populations - Pacific

Dr. Lavers said: "Flesh-footed shearwater populations are declining across the south west Pacific Ocean and Western Australia's south coast. Plastic ingestion has been implicated in this decline but the mechanisms by which it affects shearwaters are poorly understood."

Analysis found that the plastic ingestion recorded in these birds can have a significant negative impact even on superficially healthy seabirds.

Dr - Bond - Findings

Dr. Bond explained the findings: ' "What was...
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