The ingestion of anthropogenic plastic debris by marine wildlife is widespread in the Mediterranean Sea. The endangered status (in the IUCN Red List) of Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta, Linnaeus, 1758) is a consequence of its vulnerability. In this study, macro-/meso-plastics (5–170 mm) collected from faeces of twelve loggerhead turtles rescued (live) in the Aeolian Archipelago (Southern Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy) were analyzed by size, weight, shape, color and polymer type through Attenuated Total Reflectance Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR). The defecation rate during hospitalization (7–14 days) varied among turtles (from 0.08 to 0.58). The mean number of plastic expulsions (2.7 ± 1.8 items for turtle) was higher during the 5th day of hospitalization (Kruskal-Wallis test, P = 0.01). However, the mean number of plastic-like items defecated during the common days of hospitalization did not vary among turtles (Kruskal-Wallis test, P > 0.05). All turtles were found to have ingested plastic. A total of 114 debris items were recovered from their faeces, 113 of which were identified as plastic. Their color was mostly white-transparent (64.9%) and light (19.3%). Shape was mainly fragments (52.6%), sheets (38.6%), followed by nylon, net-fragments, elastic plastic, foamed plastic and industrial granules (8.8%). Meso-plastics (5–25 mm) represented 72% of the total number of debris and were found more frequently in turtle with Curved Carapace Length (CCL) ≤ 60 cm (CCL = 30–60 cm, n = 5) than those with CCL >60 cm (CCL = 60–71 cm, n = 7). Plastic items were composed mainly of polyethylene (48.2%) and polypropylene (34.2%). Polypropylene (R2 = 0.95, P < 0.001) and polyisoprene (R2 = 0.45, P = 0.017) were more common in meso-plastics while polyethylene (R2 = 0.44, P < 0.01) in macro-plastics. Finally, high-density polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, polyamide and polyurethane were also found in some turtles. This study reveals high spreads of plastic contamination in faeces of both turtles with CCL ≤60 cm and CCL >60 cm, particularly vulnerable to the increasing quantity of floating plastic into their foraging sites highlighting the need of further research to associate debris ingestion with turtle diet and their size.
Bruno, C., Blasi, M. F., Mattei, D., Martellone, L., Brancaleone, E., Savoca, S., & Favero, G. (2022). Polymer composition analysis of plastic debris ingested by loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) in Southern Tyrrhenian Sea through ATR-FTIR spectroscopy. Marine Environmental Research, 179, 105676.