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Stable carbon isotope ratios in Asian elephant collagen: implications for dietary studies

Sukumar, R and Ramesh, R (1992) Stable carbon isotope ratios in Asian elephant collagen: implications for dietary studies. In: Oecologia, 91 (4). pp. 536-539.

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Stable carbon isotope ratios in bone collagen have been used in a variety of dietary studies in modern and fossil animals, including humans. Inherent in the stable isotope technique is the assumption that the isotopic signature is a reflection of the diet and is persistent in collagen because this is a relatively inert protein. Carbon isotope analyses of bones from a southern Indian population of Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), a long-lived mammal that alternates seasonally between a predominantly C3 (browse) and C4 (grass) plant diet, showed two patterns that have important implications for dietary interpretation based on isotopic studies. Relative to the quantity of the two plant types consumed on average, the ?13C signal in collagen indicated that more carbon was incorporated from C3 plants, possibly due to their higher protein contribution. There was a much greater variance in ?13C values of collagen in sub-adult (range -10.5� to-22.7�, variance=14.51) compared to adult animals (range -16.0� to -20.3�, variance=1.85) pointing to high collagen turnover rates and non-persistent isotopic signatures in younger, growing animals. It thus seems important to correct for any significant relative differences in nutritive value of food types and also consider the age of an animal before drawing definite conclusions about its diet from isotope ratios.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publication: Oecologia
Publisher: Springer
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to Springer.
Keywords: Stable carbon isotopes;Collagen;Diet;Asian elephant;Elephas maximus.
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Date Deposited: 30 May 2011 08:40
Last Modified: 30 May 2011 08:40
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/37644

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