Chapter

Stable Isotope Geochemistry of Bonebed Fossils: Reconstructing Paleoenvironments, Paleoecology, and Paleobiology

Henry Fricke

in Bonebeds

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print January 2008 | ISBN: 9780226723709
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226723730 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226723730.003.0008
Stable Isotope Geochemistry of Bonebed Fossils: Reconstructing Paleoenvironments, Paleoecology, and Paleobiology

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The tissues of living animals contain carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen, which are sourced from the food, water, and air that animals ingest and respire. This linkage holds true for vertebrate hardparts such as bones and teeth, which consist of a matrix of organic molecules (mostly collagen) surrounded by crystals of bioapatite. The ratio of stable isotopes of carbon, oxygen and nitrogen in plants and surface waters can vary considerably. This chapter explains how stable isotope geochemistry of fossils in bonebeds can be used to reconstruct paleoenvironments, paleoecology, and paleobiology. It begins with a review that focuses on isotopic variability in plants and surface waters, isotopic relations between these ingested materials and vertebrate remains, and the preservation of primary isotopic information over time. The chapter then considers study design in relation to bonebed type, summarizes the critical assumptions and unknowns that may impact study design, and concludes by presenting specific examples of paleoenvironmental and paleoecological reconstructions using stable isotope data.

Keywords: fossils; bonebeds; stable isotopes; geochemistry; paleoecological reconstructions; paleoenvironments; paleoecology; paleobiology; bioapatite; vertebrate hardparts

Chapter.  20239 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology

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