Video: extreme example of plastic in bird's stomach

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Video: extreme example of plastic in bird's stomach

Published on
October 6, 2017

During dissection of some stomachs of the Scottish Shetland Islands we encountered a stomach in which plastics were directly visible. Master student Anastasia O'Donoghue used her mobile phone to quickly take some short video footage.

Extreme

In our monitoring studies of plastics in stomachs of northern fulmars from the North Sea area, more than nine out of ten birds' stomachs contain some plastic. However, often this concerns inconspicuous smaller particles hidden in the other contents.

Eye-catching

But sometimes the presence of plastics is immediately evident. MSc student Anastasia O’Donoghue is doing a project on plastics in fish stomachs with Wageningen Marine Research in Den Helder, but also likes to help with other lines of our plastic research. During dissection of some stomachs of the Scottish Shetland Islands, we encountered a stomach in which plastics were directly visible. Anastasia used her mobile phone to quickly take some short video footage and photo’s.

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Two stomachs

Fulmars actually have two stomachs. The first one is a large glandular stomach (proventriculus) in which plastics are less common. This first stomach is followed by a small strongly muscular one (gizzard) in which harder food remains (and plastics) are grinded to a size that allows passage into the gut. With this bird, it was immediately clear that the gizzard was full of plastic and many large fragments had accumulated in the glandular stomach.

The opened large glandular stomach (proventriculus) with its content of plastics (photo: Anastasia O’Donoghue)
The opened large glandular stomach (proventriculus) with its content of plastics (photo: Anastasia O’Donoghue)
Photo of the opening of the small muscular gizzard (photo: Anastasia O’Donoghue)
Photo of the opening of the small muscular gizzard (photo: Anastasia O’Donoghue)
Photo of the opening of the small muscular gizzard (photo: Anastasia O’Donoghue)
Photo of the opening of the small muscular gizzard (photo: Anastasia O’Donoghue)

Extreme example

After cleaning, drying and weighing of the plastics, the Shetland bird could be shown to contain nearly 5 grams of plastic. In the North Sea area, fulmars on average have about 0.3 gram of plastics, so this bird truly is an extreme example. Plastic fragments are usually not traceable, but this stomach contained a fragment clearly originating from the plastic cap of a jar of Nestlé instant coffee.

Cleaned and sorted plastics from fulmar SHE-2015-002, with smaller plastic foam bits (top left), some small sheetlike plastics (lower left), and many large hard plastic fragments (right) including one of the cap of a Nestlé instant coffee jar. (photo: Jan van Franeker)
Cleaned and sorted plastics from fulmar SHE-2015-002, with smaller plastic foam bits (top left), some small sheetlike plastics (lower left), and many large hard plastic fragments (right) including one of the cap of a Nestlé instant coffee jar. (photo: Jan van Franeker)