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Is plastic ingestion in birds as toxic as we think? Insights from a plastic feeding experiment


Roman, L and Lowenstine, L and Parsley, LM and Wilcox, C and Hardesty, BD and Gilardi, K and Hindell, MA, Is plastic ingestion in birds as toxic as we think? Insights from a plastic feeding experiment, Science of The Total Environment, 665 pp. 660-667. ISSN 0048-9697 (2019) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Crown Copyrightę 2019 Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.02.184


Plastic pollution is a modern tragedy of the commons, with hundreds of species affected by society's waste. Birds in particular mistake plastic for prey, and millions of wild birds carry small plastic loads in their stomach and are exposed to potential toxicological effects. It is currently unknown how severely the toxicological and endocrine disrupting chemicals in plastic affect avian development, reproduction and endocrine function. To address this question, we conducted multi-generational plastic feeding experiments to test the toxicological consequences of plastic ingestion at environmentally relevant loads in Japanese quail, Coturnix japonica, investigating parental and two filial generations. Contrary to expectations, we found no evidence of lasting toxicological effects on mortality, adult body weight, organ histology, hormone levels, fertility, hatch rates and eggshell strength in birds experimentally fed plastic. However, we found plastic ingestion causes higher frequencies of male reproductive cysts and minor delays in chick growth and sexual maturity, though without affecting ultimate survival or reproductive output. We report that although plastic ingestion causes detectable endocrine effects in our model species, our lack of finding mortality, morbidity and adverse reproductive outcomes may challenge the common hypothesis of severe toxicological harm and population-level effects when environmentally relevant loads of plastic are ingested.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:marine debris, Japanese quail, toxicology, endocrine disruption
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Environmental management
Research Field:Environmental assessment and monitoring
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Marine systems and management
Objective Field:Measurement and assessment of marine water quality and condition
UTAS Author:Roman, L (Dr Lauren Roman)
UTAS Author:Parsley, LM (Dr Laura Parsley)
UTAS Author:Hindell, MA (Professor Mark Hindell)
ID Code:131099
Year Published:2019
Web of Science® Times Cited:28
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2019-03-01
Last Modified:2020-03-04

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