Influence of animal proxy choice on use of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen stable isotope ratios for determining past environmental variables
The stable isotope ratios of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen (δ13C, δ15N, and δ18O values) in animal tissues show promise as environmental indicators. We evaluated the use of chimpanzee hair and leporid (jackrabbit and cottontail) bones. Chimpanzee hair δ13C values correlate negatively with mean annual precipitation (MAP) as expected based on isotope variation in C3 plants, whereas δ15N values do not because of diet selectivity. Leporid bone δ13C values do not correlate with MAP because of leporid feeding on C4 plants, but both δ13C and δ15N values correlate significantly with temperature. The lack of significant temperature variation across chimpanzee sites negates testing for temperature-related variation in chimpanzees. Leporid bones also show significant correlations between δ18O and MAP as expected for a nondrinking species. Our results suggest that mammalian δ13C values should be useful general indicators of MAP in C3-feeding animals and of temperature in C4-feeding animals. δ15N values need to be evaluated on a taxon-specific basis. Each animal proxy must be considered in the context of its feeding and drinking ecology in order to interpret the isotope data properly. All three isotopes have potential for use with museum specimens in studies of climate change and for reconstruction of paleohabitats.
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Influence of animal proxy choice on use of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen stable isotope ratios for determining past environmental variables. Margaret Schoeninger, Corinna Most, James Moore, Andrew Somerville. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429926)
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Abstract Id(s): 13229