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Using carbon isotopes to track dietary change in modern, historical, and ancient primates


Sponheimer, M; Codron, D; Passey, B H; de Ruiter, D J; Cerling, T E; Lee-Thorp, J A (2009). Using carbon isotopes to track dietary change in modern, historical, and ancient primates. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 140(4):661-670.

Abstract

Stable isotope analysis can be used to document dietary changes within the lifetimes of individuals and may prove useful for investigating fallback food consumption in modern, historical, and ancient primates. Feces, hair, and enamel are all suitable materials for such analysis, and each has its own benefits and limitations. Feces provide highly resolved temporal dietary data, but are generally limited to providing dietary information about modern individuals and require labor-intensive sample collection and analysis. Hair provides less well-resolved data, but has the advantage that one or a few hair strands can provide
evidence of dietary change over months or years. Hair is also available in museum collections, making it possible to investigate the diets of historical specimens. Enamel provides the poorest temporal resolution of these materials, but is often preserved for millions of years, allowing examination of dietary change in deep time. We briefly discuss the use of carbon isotope data as it pertains to recent thinking about fallback food consumption in ancient hominins and suggest that we may need to rethink the functional significance of the australopith masticatory package.

Abstract

Stable isotope analysis can be used to document dietary changes within the lifetimes of individuals and may prove useful for investigating fallback food consumption in modern, historical, and ancient primates. Feces, hair, and enamel are all suitable materials for such analysis, and each has its own benefits and limitations. Feces provide highly resolved temporal dietary data, but are generally limited to providing dietary information about modern individuals and require labor-intensive sample collection and analysis. Hair provides less well-resolved data, but has the advantage that one or a few hair strands can provide
evidence of dietary change over months or years. Hair is also available in museum collections, making it possible to investigate the diets of historical specimens. Enamel provides the poorest temporal resolution of these materials, but is often preserved for millions of years, allowing examination of dietary change in deep time. We briefly discuss the use of carbon isotope data as it pertains to recent thinking about fallback food consumption in ancient hominins and suggest that we may need to rethink the functional significance of the australopith masticatory package.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Veterinary Clinic > Department of Small Animals
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
630 Agriculture
Date:2009
Deposited On:12 Jan 2010 14:57
Last Modified:26 Jan 2017 08:45
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0002-9483
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.21111
PubMed ID:19890855

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