A team of scientists from Cardiff University has calculated the size of the plastic that animals are able to swallow, depending on the length of their body.
Researchers examined the intestinal contents of more than 2,000 animals to create a simple equation. It can predict the size of a plastic object that an animal was able to swallow. According to their results, published in the journal Nature Communications, the maximum size of plastic that they can eat should be 5% of the size of the animal.
Scientists noted that their data can be used to understand the risk to which different species of animals are exposed around the world.
Reviewing the data, the group found that the plastic enters the body of marine and freshwater mammals, reptiles, fish and invertebrates, from 9mm long fry to a 10m humpback whale.
During their research, scientists found several shocking examples of plastic contamination: hoses and flower pots were found in the sperm whale, plastic bags inside green turtles and a shotgun inside the whale.
“We still know very little about how most animals feed in the wild, so it’s hard to understand how much plastic they can eat. This information gives us the opportunity to start measuring the extent of the pollution problem”, said the researchers.