A critical review of harm associated with plastic ingestion on vertebrates

Peter S Puskic, Jennifer L Lavers, Alexander L Bond

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Studies documenting plastic ingestion in animals have increased in recent years. Many do not describe the less conspicuous, sub-lethal impacts of plastic ingestion, such as reduced body condition or physiological changes. This means the severity of this global problem may have been underestimated. We conducted a critical review on the sub-lethal impacts of plastic ingestion on marine vertebrates (excluding fish). We found 34 papers which tried to measure plastics' impact using a variety of tools, and less than half of these detected any impact. The most common tools used were visual observations and body condition indices. Tools that explore animal physiology, such as histopathology, are a promising future approach to uncover the sub-lethal impacts of plastic ingestion in vertebrates. We encourage exploring impacts on species beyond the marine environment, using multiple tools or approaches, and continued research to discern the hidden impacts of plastic on global wildlife.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140666
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2020


  • Animals
  • Charadriiformes
  • Eating
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Plastics
  • Vertebrates
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical/analysis


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