Carnivore specific bone bioapatite and collagen carbon isotope fractionations: Case studies of modern and fossil grey wolf populations
Stable isotope analyses of modern and fossil biogenic tissues are routinely used to reconstruct present and past vertebrate foodwebs. Accurate isotopic dietary reconstructions require a consumer and tissue specific understanding of how isotopes are sorted, or fractionated, between trophic levels. In this project we address the need for carnivore specific isotope variables derived from populations that are ecologically well- characterized. Specifically, we investigate the trophic difference in carbon isotope values between mammalian carnivore (wolf) bone bioapatite and herbivore (prey) bone bioapatite. We also compare bone bioapatite and collagen carbon isotope values collected from the same individuals. We analyzed bone specimens from two modern North American grey wolf (Canis lupus) populations (Isle Royale National Park, Michigan and Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming), and the ungulate herbivores that are their primary prey (moose and elk, respectively). Because the diets of both wolf populations are essentially restricted to a single prey species, there were no confounding effects due to carnivore diet variability. We measured a trophic difference of approximately -1.3 permil between carnivore (lower value) and herbivore (higher value) bone bioapatite carbon isotope values, and an average inter-tissue difference of 5.1 permil between carnivore bone collagen (lower value) and bioapatite (higher value) carbon isotope values. Both of these isotopic differences differ from previous estimates derived from a suite of African carnivores; our carnivore-herbivore bone bioapatite carbon isotope spacing is smaller (-1.3 vs. -4.0 permil), and our carnivore collagen-bioapatite carbon difference is larger (5.1 vs. 3.0 permil). These discrepancies likely result from comparing values measured from a single hypercarnivore (wolf) to average values calculated from several carnivore species, some of which are insectivorous or partly omnivorous. The trophic and inter-tissue differences we measured for wolves are applicable to future isotopic studies of consumers with purely carnivorous diets. For example, we collected bone bioapatite and collagen carbon isotope data from late Pleistocene grey wolf fossils from eastern Beringia (Fairbanks, Alaska), and used the modern inter-tissue difference presented here to verify bioapatite preservation. We then compared the wolves to herbivores (horse and caribou) from the same locality, and found the difference in their bone bioapatite carbon isotope values corresponded to the modern carnivore-herbivore trophic spacing given above. We therefore were able to conclude that horse and caribou were part of Beringian wolf diet.
AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts
- Pub Date:
- December 2006
- 0498 General or miscellaneous