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Seabird bones reveal changes in open-ocean food chain


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Remains of endangered Hawaiian petrels -- both ancient and modern -- show how drastically today's open seas fish menu has changed. Scientists analyzed the bones of Hawaiian petrels -- birds that spend the majority of their lives foraging the open waters of the Pacific. They found that the substantial change in petrels' eating habits, eating prey that are lower rather than higher in the food chain, coincides with the growth of industrialized fishing.LxvkjBsl9tg

 

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The impact of industrial fishing on coastal ecosystems has been studied for many years. But how it affects food webs in the open ocean―a vast region that covers almost half of the Earth's surface―has not been very clear. So a team of Smithsonian and Michigan State University scientists and their colleagues looked to the ancient bones of seabirds for answers, revealing some of the dramatic changes that have happened within open-ocean food webs since the onset of industrial fishing. The team's research is published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

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