These then get snared2 in their alimentary3 canals, cannot be broken down by the animals' digestive enzymes4 and may ultimately kill them.
Drifting plastic bags, for instance, look similar to jellyfish, which many types of turtles love to eat.
Yet lots of plastic objects that end up inside turtles have no resemblance to jellyfish.
Joseph Pfaller of the University of Florida therefore suspects that something more complicated is going on.
As he writes in Current Biology, he thinks that the odour of marine6 micro-organisms which colonise floating plastic objects induces turtles to feed.
The idea that the smell of plastic flotsam might lure7 animals to their doom8 first emerged in 2016.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, noticed that certain chemicals, notably9 dimethyl sulphide,
which are released into the air by micro-organism-colonised plastics, are those which many seabirds sniff10 to track down food.
and bacteria that lie at the bottom of marine food chains. The researchers also found that birds
which pursue their food in this way are five or six times more likely to eat plastic than those which do not.
Since turtles are known to break the surface periodically and sniff the air when navigating12 towards their feeding areas,
Dr Pfaller theorised that they are following these same chemicals, and are likewise fooled into thinking that floating plastic objects are edible13.
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