When seabirds smell plastic in the ocean, they think it’s time to eat – Los Angeles Times

Seabirds mistakenly eat plastic debris in the ocean not just because it looks like food, but because it smells like it.

When mealtime comes around, many species of ocean-faring birds, including albatrosses and petrels, follow their noses to the smell of dying algae, a sure sign that tasty krill are eating up the microscopic plants.

In this tiny feeding frenzy, the algal cells burst and release a distinct-smelling sulfurous compound. The algae use this chemical as a kind of distress call, signaling their bird allies to come eat their predators.

But it’s possible for this process to be hijacked, according to a UC Davis study published this week in Science Advances.

When seabirds smell plastic in the ocean, they think it’s time to eat – Los Angeles Times

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