Archaeological (top) and modern (bottom) bones and skulls of the Hawaiian petrel held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The archaeological bones are about two centuries old. The Hawaiian petrel is a marine predator that flies great distances across the north Pacific Ocean to feed, but returns to the Hawaiian Islands to breed. Biochemical signals preserved in its bones were compared between ancient and modern times to learn whether changes in the Pacific food-web structure have affected the petrel’s food web. Because the bird covers such a broad area of the remote Pacific Ocean when feeding, the study of biochemical signals in its bones can provide valuable insight into large-scale shifts in ocean food webs over time.
Donald E. Hurlbert, Smithsonian