Plastic Pellets Discovered in the Tummies of Adorable Puffins in Scotland

First Posted: Mar 31, 2015 11:39 AM EDT

Plastic pollution is impacting our seas-everywhere from surface waters to the sea ocean. Now, though, scientists have made a somewhat unsettling discovery. I turns out that puffins on the Isle of May in Scotland are actually nibbling on little nuggets of plastic.

The small plastic pellets are called nurdles, and are usually used in manufacturing processes. They're about the size of a lentil, and are apparently now an unnatural part of the puffin diet.

The findings were first made after researchers examined dead puffins found on the Scottish island. They found several nurdles in the seabirds' stomachs; it seemed as if the birds had swallowed them along with their usual prey, which usually consists of sand eels.

"We regularly collect puffins found dead on the island to help us monitor the health of the population," said Mark Newell from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, where the autopsies were formed, in an interview with CBS News. "As part of this research we look at what they have been eating . At first we didn't know what the strange pieces of plastic were, but we found them in a number of the puffins' stomachs."

The nurdles can become trapped in the puffins' stomachs, and also may have toxic chemicals on their surfaces. Needless to say, this can impact the birds' health. Although the researchers don't fully understand all of the impacts these pellets have, it's likely a threat to marine life as a whole.

"We have contacted the plastic companies around the Forth and using the public sightings shown them the impact nurdles are having on the local environment," said Cathy Sexton of the Great Nurdle Hunt in an interview with The Courier. "I am pleased to say that as a result we are now in discussion with a number of those companies who are keen to help keep nurdles out of the Forth."

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