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Estimating the size distribution of plastics ingested by animals

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Fredric WindsorORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The ingestion of plastics appears to be widespread throughout the animal kingdom with risks to individuals, ecosystems and human health. Despite growing information on the location, abundance and size distribution of plastics in the environment, it cannot be assumed that any given animal will ingest all sizes of plastic encountered. Here, we use published data to develop an allometric relationship between plastic consumption and animal size to estimate the size distribution of plastics feasibly ingested by animals. Based on more than 2000 gut content analyses from animals ranging over three orders of magnitude in size (lengths 9 mm to 10 m), body length alone accounts for 42% of the variance in the length of plastic an animal may ingest and indicates a size ratio of roughly 20:1 between animal body length and the largest plastic the animal may ingest. We expect this work to improve global assessments of plastic pollution risk by introducing a quantifiable link between animals and the plastics they can ingest.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Jâms IB, Windsor FM, Poudevigne-Durance T, Ormerod SJ, Durance I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Nature Communications

Year: 2020

Volume: 11

Online publication date: 27/03/2020

Acceptance date: 04/03/2020

Date deposited: 01/06/2020

ISSN (electronic): 2041-1723

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-15406-6


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