SYDNEY, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- A new study released in Australia on Monday has warned of the dangers microplastics pose to filter-feeding marine animals like manta rays and whales.
Led by Murdoch University in Australia, in collaboration with the Marine Megafauna Foundation in Indonesia, the research examined how toxic chemicals found in plastics can accumulate in the species over decades to pose a "significant risk" that can lead to stunted growth, altered development and reproductive problems.
"Marine filter-feeders are likely to be at risk because they need to swallow hundreds to thousands of cubic metres of water daily in an effort to capture plankton," lead author Elitza Germanov explained in her findings.
"They can ingest microplastics directly from polluted water or indirectly through contaminated prey."
The team's analysis also found that species tend to congregate in areas that overlap "microplastic pollution hotspots," which include the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Coral Triangle in Southeast Asia.
"As plastic production is projected to increase globally, the establishment of long-term monitoring programs is needed in the feeding grounds of these ocean giants, so we can check on toxicity levels in these creatures over a period of time," Germanov said.
"The microplastics issue potentially places the viability of nature based tourism involving these creatures under threat also and this kind of tourism is a significant source of income in the regions where filter-feeders congregate."