Microplastic and macroplastic ingestion by a deep diving, oceanic cetacean: The True’s beaked whale Mesoplodon mirus

When mammals strand, they present a unique opportunity to obtain insights into their ecology. In May 2013, three True’s beaked whales (two adult females and a female calf) stranded on the north and west coasts of Ireland and the contents of their stomachs and intestines were analysed for anthropogenic debris. A method for identifying microplastics ingested by larger marine organisms was developed. Microplastics were identified throughout the digestive tract of the single whale that was examined for the presence of microplastics. The two adult females had macroplastic items in their stomachs. Food remains recovered from the adult whales consisted of mesopelagic fish (Benthosema glaciale, Nansenia spp., Chauliodius sloani) and cephalopods, although trophic transfer has been discussed, it was not possible to ascertain whether prey were the source of microplastics. This is the first study to directly identify microplastics <5 mm in a cetacean species.

Amy L. Lusher, Gema Hernandez-Milian, Joanne O’Brien, Simon Berrow, Ian O’Connor, Rick Officer, Environmental Pollution, Volume 199, Pages 185–191, April 2015

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