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The National Air And Space Museum and the National Museum of American History will be open today, March 5; all other Smithsonian Washington, D.C.-area museums and the National Zoo will be closed due to inclement weather. The Smithsonian museums in New York will be open today.Skip navigation
August 24, 2007 – January 14, 2008
Museum: Natural History Museum
Sponsor: Smithsonian Institution Libraries
Location: Ground Floor, Constitution Ave. Lobby, East Side
Now extinct, the great auk (Pinguinus impennis), a flightless bird, once inhabited the shores of the North Atlantic by the millions. The wings of the great auk were specialized for "flying" underwater but not on land; to escape its enemies on land, it needed islands free from predators to nest. Humans probably began hunting the great auk on islands close to shore in prehistoric times, and as maritime technology improved, went to islands farther out to sea to hunt this bird for food, oil, feathers, and even fish bait. By 1800, most great auk colonies had been wiped out; the last known pair was killed by collectors in 1844.
Objects on view include: