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The amount of plastic a short-tailed shearwater has eaten can now be assessed by swabbing near its tail feathers. Credit: JJ Harrison (Creative commons)

This article has been taken from ABC Environment.

Scientists have developed a new technique to assess how much plastic a seabird has eaten. It involves a quick massage and a cotton swab.

A TEAM OF AUSTRALIAN scientists has developed a new method for assessing how much plastic debris a seabird has eaten while foraging on the open ocean, leading to a better understanding of how human rubbish is affecting other species.

The scientists, from CSIRO’s Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, say preening oil — the waxy substance used by seabirds to prevent their feathers from becoming waterlogged — can provide an indirect measure of plastic ingestion (findings published in MEE).

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