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J Hum Evol. 2010 Jan;58(1):43-55. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.08.001. Epub 2009 Sep 30.

Isotopic ecology and dietary profiles of Liberian chimpanzees.

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  • 1Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 11 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


An extensive suite of isotopic data (delta(13)C, delta(15)N, and delta(18)O) from enamel apatite and bone collagen of adult male and female wild chimpanzees establishes baseline values for Pan troglodytes verus in a primary rainforest setting. The Ganta chimpanzee sample derives from a restricted region in northern Liberia. Diet is examined using stable light isotopes at three life stages-infant, young juvenile, and adult-and developmental differences are investigated within and between individual males and females. The isotopic data are very homogeneous with few exceptions. Juvenile females show consistent enrichment in (13)C relative to infants, while juvenile males do not. These data suggest that age at weaning may be more variable for male offspring who survive to adulthood than for female offspring. Alternatively, or additionally, the weaning diet of males and females may differ, with greater consumption of technologically extracted insects and/or nuts by young females. Metabolic differences, including growth and hormone-mediated responses, may also contribute to the observed variation. The Ganta chimpanzee data offer an independent and objective line of evidence to primatologists interested in the dietary strategies of the great apes and to paleoanthropologists seeking comparative models for reconstructing early hominin subsistence patterns. Despite the high diversity of dietary items consumed by chimpanzees, isotopic signatures of chimpanzees from a primary rainforest setting exhibit narrow ranges of variation similar to chimpanzees in more open habitats.

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