Wastewater treatment plants release microplastics into the environment, where they accumulate and pose a threat to wildlife. But by studying the way a manta ray feeds on plankton, scientists in the US have designed a filtration system that captures the tiny fragments without getting clogged.
Voice: Patrick Aryee
Digital producers: Christopher Brooks and Jennifer Green
Animator: Jules Bartl
With thanks to Prof Misty Paig-Tran, California State University, Fullerton
For more on this story and other animals that have inspired inventions, listen to ’30 Animals That Made Us Smarter’ on BBC World Service.