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Sources of carbon isotope variation in kangaroo bone collagen and tooth enamel


Murphy, BP and Bowman, DMJS and Gagan, MK, Sources of carbon isotope variation in kangaroo bone collagen and tooth enamel, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 71, (15) pp. 3847-3858. ISSN 0016-7037 (2007) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.gca.2007.05.012


The stable carbon isotopic composition (expressed as δ 13C) of herbivore remains is commonly used to reconstruct past changes in the relative abundance of C 4 versus C 3 grass biomass (C 4 relative abundance). However, the strength of the relationship between herbivore δ 13C and C 4 relative abundance in extant ecosystems has not been thoroughly examined. We determined sources of variation in δ 13C of bone collagen and tooth enamel of kangaroos (Macropus spp.) collected throughout Australia by measuring δ 13C of bone collagen (779 individuals) and tooth enamel (694 individuals). An index of seasonal water availability, i.e. the distribution of rainfall in the C 4 versus C 3 growing seasons, was used as a proxy for C 4 relative abundance, and this variable explained a large proportion of the variation in both collagen δ 13C (68%) and enamel δ 13C (68%). These figures increased to 78% and 77%, respectively, when differences between kangaroo species were accounted for. Vegetation characteristics, such as woodiness and the presence of an open forest canopy, had no effect on collagen or enamel δ 13C. While there was no relationship between collagen δ 13C and kangaroo age at death, tooth enamel produced later in life, following weaning, was enriched in 13C by 3.5‰ relative to enamel produced prior to weaning. From the observed relationships between seasonal water availability and collagen and enamel δ 13C, enrichment factors (ε *) for collagen-diet and enamel-diet (post-weaning) were estimated to be 5.2‰ ± 0.5 (95% CI) and 11.7‰ ± 0.6 (95% CI), respectively. The findings of this study confirm that at a continental scale, collagen and enamel δ 13C of a group of large herbivores closely reflect C 4 relative abundance. This validates a fundamental assumption underpinning the use of isotopic analysis of herbivore remains to reconstruct changes in C 4 relative abundance. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Terrestrial ecology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the environmental sciences
UTAS Author:Bowman, DMJS (Professor David Bowman)
ID Code:50748
Year Published:2007
Web of Science® Times Cited:32
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2007-08-01
Last Modified:2008-05-17

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