Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Seabird bones reveal changes in open-ocean food chain

14.05.2013
Remains of endangered Hawaiian petrels – both ancient and modern – show how drastically today’s open seas fish menu has changed.
A research team, led by Michigan State University and Smithsonian Institution 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.

The birds’ dramatic shift in diet, shown in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, leaves scientists pondering the fate of petrels as well as wondering how many other species face similar challenges.

“Our bone record is alarming because it suggests that open-ocean food webs are changing on a large scale due to human influence,” said Peggy Ostrom, co-author and MSU zoologist. “Our study is among the first to address one of the great mysteries of biological oceanography – whether fishing has gone beyond an influence on targeted species to affect nontarget species and potentially, entire food webs in the open ocean.”

Hawaiian petrels’ diet is recorded in the chemistry of their bones. By studying the bones’ ratio of nitrogen-15 and nitrogen-14 isotopes, researchers can tell at what level in the food chain the birds are feasting; generally, the larger the isotope ratio, the bigger the prey (fish, squid and crustaceans).

Between 4,000 and 100 years ago, petrels had high isotope ratios, indicating they ate bigger prey. After the onset of industrial fishing, which began extending past the continental shelves around 1950, the isotope ratios declined, indicating a species-wide shift to a diet of smaller fish and other prey.

Much research has focused on the impact of fishing near the coasts. In contrast, the open ocean covers nearly half of the Earth’s surface. But due to a lack of historical records, fishing’s impact on most open-ocean animal populations is completely unknown, said lead author Anne Wiley, formerly an MSU doctoral student and now a Smithsonian postdoctoral researcher.

“Hawaiian petrels spend the majority of their lives foraging over vast expanses of open ocean,” she said. “In their search for food, they’ve done what scientists can only dream of. For thousands of years, they’ve captured a variety of fish, squid and crustaceans from a large portion of the North Pacific Ocean, and a record of their diet is preserved in their bones.”

Addressing fishery impact through a chronology of bones is remarkable. Most marine animals die at sea, where their bones are buried on the ocean bottom. But after three decades of fossil collection in the Hawaiian Islands – the breeding grounds of the Hawaiian petrel – co-author Helen James of the Smithsonian Institution and her colleagues have amassed a collection of more than 17,000 ancient Hawaiian petrel bones.

“The petrels breed in burrows and caves where, if they die, their bones are likely to be preserved for a long time,” James said. “It’s fortuitous to find such a rich bone record for a rare oceanic predator.”

Further studies are needed to explore how the shift down the food chain is affecting Hawaiian petrels. For a coastal seabird, however, a similar shift in diet has been associated with decreases in population – bad news for a federally protected bird.

Since petrels exploit fishing grounds from the equator to near the Aleutian Islands – an area larger than the continental United States – their foraging habits are quite telling. If petrels, signal flares for open-ocean food webs, have had a species-wide change in feeding habits, how many other predators around the world has fishing impacted? And what role do consumers play?

“What you choose to put on your dinner plate – that’s your connection with the endangered Hawaiian petrel, and with many other marine species,” Wiley said.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, MSU and the Smithsonian Institution.

Layne Cameron | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.msu.edu
http://www.msutoday.msu.edu/news/2013/seabird-bones-reveal-changes-in-open-ocean-food-chain/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>