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Modern macaque dietary heterogeneity assessed using stable isotope analysis of hair and bone

By Hannah J. O'Regan, Carolyn Chenery, Angela Lamb, Rhiannon E. Stevens, L. Rook and Sarah Elton

Abstract

Dietary variability might have been a major factor in the dispersal and subsequent persistence of the genus Macaca in both tropical and temperate areas. Macaques are found from northern Africa to Japan, yet there have been few systematic attempts to compare diets between different modern populations. Here we have taken a direct approach and sampled museum-curated tissues (hair and bone) of Macaca mulatta (rhesus macaques) for carbon and nitrogen stable isotope dietary analyses. Samples from India, Vietnam, and Burma (Myanmar) were taken, representing both tropical and temperate populations. The δ13C values obtained from hair show that the temperate macaques, particularly those from Uttar Pradesh, have a δ13C signature that indicates at least some use of C4 resources, while the tropical individuals have a C3-based diet. However, δ13C values from bone bioapatite indicate a C3-based diet for all specimens and they do not show the C4 usage seen in the hair of some animals, possibly because bone represents a much longer turnover period than that of hair. The results of δ15N analyses grouped animals by geographic region of origin, which may be related to local soil nitrogen values. The greatest variation in δ15N values was seen in the specimens from Burma, which may be partly due to seasonality, as specimens were collected at different times of year. We also investigated the relationship between the hair, bone collagen, and bone bioapatite δ13C results, and found that they are highly correlated, and that one tissue can be used to extrapolate results for another. However, our results also suggest that hair may pick up discrete feeding traces (such as seasonal usage), which are lost when only bone collagen and bioapatite are examined. This has important implications for dietary reconstructions of archaeological and paleontological populations

Topics: Earth Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2008
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2008.05.001
OAI identifier: oai:nora.nerc.ac.uk:6065
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