Alexandra Caron-Strehlow

Development of a protocol to extract microplastics from green turtle gut content

Ingestion of plastic debris by sea turtles has been widely documented; however, contamination by microplastics (<5 mm) is poorly known. This project’s aim was to develop a microplastic extraction protocol for examining green turtle (Chelonia mydas) chyme. The chyme is a heterogeneous composite of various organic dietary items (e.g. seagrass, jellyfish), and incidentally-ingested inorganic materials (e.g. sediment). Preliminary results from the analysis of samples from two green turtles from the Great Barrier Reef revealed two macroplastics (a 4.5 m-long line and soft debris) in one turtle and seven microplastics (two plastic paint chips and five synthetic fabric particles) in the other. These results highlight the need for analysis of an increased sample size in order to improve our knowledge of the microplastic load of sea turtles from around the world. The sequential extraction protocol validated in this study will enable researchers worldwide to quantify green turtles microplastic contamination in a reliable and comparable way.