I wondered just how many marine animals died from eating plastic bags each year, so I called my friend Wallace “J.” Nichols, a marine biologist and research associate for the California Academy of Sciences. J. told me that while a lot of figures have been thrown around in the media, hard numbers are difficult to calculate, and the sad fact is that when most sea animals eat plastic and die, they sink to the bottom, unaccounted for. But possibly more significant than the individual animals that are killed by eating plastic are those that are affected indirectly. For example, when sea turtles eat plastic instead of food, their glucose levels drop, leaving them with less energy for migration and reproduction. Females can’t lay as many eggs, and fewer new sea turtles are born. “When you connect the dots,” J. said, “you realize that plastic pollution may cost millions of potential sea turtle lives.”
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