Monday, April 13, 2009

They May Have Leather Backs, But Inside It's Plastic

Leatherback turtles have been around for 110 million years. But a 19th-century invention may be ushering their exit

Alexander Parkes was born in England in 1813, the son of a brass lock manufacturer. After working as an apprentice to a brass founder, he patented a process to electroplate art works in 1841. But he is probably most known for the revolutionary substance he developed in 1856 he dubbed Parkesine. We know it by another name: plastic.

It's arguable that Mr. Parkes' invention has made lives easier -- at least for humans, and in the short run. One-hundred and fifty-three years later, at least one verdict is in: It's made life harder for turtles.

According to a new study, plastic has been found in one-third of leatherback turtles, an ancient turtle species listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The study was based on necropsy reports of 400 leatherbacks that died since 1885.

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image: NOAA

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