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Sci Adv. 2016 Nov 9;2(11):e1600395. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1600395. eCollection 2016 Nov.

Marine plastic debris emits a keystone infochemical for olfactory foraging seabirds.

Author information

1
Department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA.
2
Graduate Group in Ecology, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA.
3
Department of Viticulture and Enology, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA.

Abstract

Plastic debris is ingested by hundreds of species of organisms, from zooplankton to baleen whales, but how such a diversity of consumers can mistake plastic for their natural prey is largely unknown. The sensory mechanisms underlying plastic detection and consumption have rarely been examined within the context of sensory signals driving marine food web dynamics. We demonstrate experimentally that marine-seasoned microplastics produce a dimethyl sulfide (DMS) signature that is also a keystone odorant for natural trophic interactions. We further demonstrate a positive relationship between DMS responsiveness and plastic ingestion frequency using procellariiform seabirds as a model taxonomic group. Together, these results suggest that plastic debris emits the scent of a marine infochemical, creating an olfactory trap for susceptible marine wildlife.

KEYWORDS:

Chemical ecology; conservation biology; dimethyl sulfide; foraging ecology; marine pollution; plastic debris; sensory ecology

PMID:
28861463
PMCID:
PMC5569953
DOI:
10.1126/sciadv.1600395
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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