New study suggests corals eat plastic as they like the taste

Corals are an important part of Earth’s marine ecosystem, but their lives are in grave danger.
Plastic in oceans is an indiscriminate hazard. It endangers fish and kills seabirds. Turtles swallow it because they think it’s jellyfish. It also ends up wedged in corals and plankton, disrupting their ecosystem.
For years, marine biologists assumed that, like turtles, sea creatures, including corals, ate plastic by accident. In general, the intelligence of underwater creatures is thought to be far too weak to recognise plastic as hazardous.
But a new study by Duke University researchers published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin suggests there might be another reason why corals love eating plastic.
Studying coral from an estuary on the North Carolina coast, the researchers found that corals overwhelmingly preferred to eat plastic particles instead of plain sand — regardless if the plastic was factory-made or weathered for several years.
The team was surprised to learn that the corals might prefer plastic because humans have found a way to make it appetising.
“Plastics may be inherently tasty,” said Austin Allen, one of the lead authors of the study alongside Alexander Seymour.
Allen, Duke, and marine ecologist Daniel Rittschof demonstrated that corals eat microplastic fragments as if they were food.