Stable Carbon and Oxygen Isotopes in East African Mammals: Modern and Fossil

Thure E. Cerling, John M. Harris, Meave G. Leakey, Benjamin H. Passey and Naomi E. Levin

in Cenozoic Mammals of Africa

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780520257214
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520945425 | DOI:
Stable Carbon and Oxygen Isotopes in East African Mammals: Modern and Fossil

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Stable isotopes have become an important tool to study diets and behavior of fossil mammals, but the path to acceptance has been long and arduous. Phosphate studies apply only to oxygen isotopes and dietary information is lacking; likewise, collagen is rarely preserved in fossils older than some thousands of years. This chapter discusses isotope ratios that are preserved in the carbonate component of tooth enamel. It first reviews isotopic analysis of the diets of extant mammals from Africa and looks at the dietary history of different mammalian lineages. It then examines the correspondence between the isotopic evidence for the transition from a C3 to a C4 world and the paleontological evidence for faunal change at the end of the Miocene and beginning of the Pliocene as shown by the faunal assemblages from Lothagam, northern Kenya. This faunal turnover is one of the most marked in the Cenozoic. Lastly, the chapter discusses future directions of stable isotope paleoecology.

Keywords: Africa; mammals; stable isotopes; diets; fossils; Kenya; paleoecology; tooth enamel; Miocene; Pliocene

Chapter.  11347 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology

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