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Trends Ecol Evol. 2004 May;19(5):256-63.

From birds to butterflies: animal movement patterns and stable isotopes.

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Cornell University, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Seeley G. Mudd Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-2702, USA.


Establishing patterns of movement of wild animals is crucial for our understanding of their ecology, life history and behavior, and is a prerequisite for their effective conservation. Advances in the use of stable isotope markers make it possible to track a diversity of animal species in a variety of habitats. This approach is revolutionizing the way in which we make connections between phases of the annual cycle of migratory animals. However, researchers must exercise care in their application of isotopic methods. Here, we review stable isotope patterns in nature and discuss recent tracking applications in a range of taxa. To aid in the interpretation and design of effective and insightful isotope movement studies, we discuss a series of key issues and assumptions. This exciting field will advance rapidly if researchers consider these aspects of study design and interpretation carefully.


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