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Large changes environmental changes following commercial whaling in the Eastern Canadian Arctic

Author(s): Paul Szpak

Year: 2016

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Summary

Stable isotope records from dovekie (Alle alle), ringed seal (Pusa hispida) and bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) bones recovered from archaeological sites in eastern North American High Arctic (northwestern Greenland and eastern Canadian Arctic) reveal little auks declined an entire trophic level in the 20th century, following stability between the 12th and early 20th centuries. Conversely, bowhead whale trophic level remained stable and ringed seal trophic level slightly increased across the same period. These data are consistent with little auks relying to a much greater extent on relatively high trophic level prey (predatory amphipods and small fish) when bowheads were abundant. After the depletion of bowhead whales in the 18th and 19th centuries, however, a large-scale change in the diet of little auks occurred, with increased specialization on herbivorous copepods (Calanus sp.), driven by ecological release from competition with bowheads. The isotopic data suggest that the modern trophic ecology of the little auk is an artifact of ecosystem changes precipitated by historic and recent fisheries.


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Cite this Record

Large changes environmental changes following commercial whaling in the Eastern Canadian Arctic. Paul Szpak. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403099)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -142.471; min lat: 42.033 ; max long: -47.725; max lat: 74.402 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America