Plastic Bits are Food? An Anchovy’s Perspective…

anchovy, anchovies, anchovies and plastic

Anchovies:Photo credit: Erik Sorenson via Visual hunt / CC BY


Anchovies can smell plastic pieces in the ocean and mistake them for food.

Plastic bits or food-they all smell the same to me. Hi, I’m Annie, and I’m an anchovy. You may have seen my colleagues in a tin can (may they RIP), or in the ocean in a large shimmery school that’s hopefully not being eaten by large predators such as sharks and dolphins, eek!

You might also wonder how we can smell in the first place, as we live underwater. Chemicals travel through the water and into my nostrils, just like they do in the air for terrestrial animals. Sharks can smell blood from very far away or in low quantities. Salmon use their sense of smell to navigate back to their birthplace spawning ground upstream.

Back to the plastic bits-humans have found that over 50 kinds of fish mistakenly eat plastic, thinking that it’s food. That includes my friends and I. A neat study by humans using an anchovy school in an aquarium (Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco, California) found that by measuring our schooling behavior (how tight we schooled and our body position relative to water flow) that we:

1. Use odors to locate food

2. Plastic pieces are confusing to us due to their similarity to food in appearance and smell

So what can you do to help? Avoid single use plastics (SUP) whenever possible and recycle if you do buy them! Less than 7 percent of plastic in the U.S. gets recycled. Thanks for recycling, every little bit helps! Fortunately I won’t be around in 2050 when there is more plastic in the ocean than fish…

I used information from these articles:
Bait and Switch: Anchovies Eat Plastic Because it Smells Like Prey

The Numbers on Plastics

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One Response to

Plastic Bits are Food? An Anchovy’s Perspective…

  1. Emily says:

    Great post on a very big problem

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