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Oecologia. 2007 Oct;153(4):943-50. Epub 2007 Jun 26.

Determining landscape use of Holocene mammals using strontium isotopes.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94703, USA.


The use of the landscape by animals is predicted to be a function of their body size. However, empirical data relating these two variables from an array of body sizes within a single mammalian community are scarce. We tested this prediction by assessing landscape use of mammals by analyzing strontium (Sr) isotope signatures found in mammalian hard tissues representing a 3,000-year record. We examined: (1) the Sr-determined landscape area of small (approximately 100 g), medium (approximately 1,500 g) and large (approximately 100,000 g) mammals, and; (2) whether the area used by these mammals varied during periods of environmental change. Strontium isotope values were obtained from 46 specimens from the Holocene paleontological deposits of Lamar Cave and Waterfall Locality in Wyoming, USA, as well as from 13 modern ungulate specimens from the same area. Our data indicate that medium- and large-sized species use larger percentages of the landscape than do species of small body size. The isotope values for specimens from each of the paleontological sites are similar across all stratigraphic levels, suggesting no change in home range over the last 3,000 years, even though climate is known to have fluctuated at these sites over this time period. Further, our study verifies that the fossil localities represent the local community. Where bedrock geology is appropriate, the use of strontium isotope analyses provides a valuable tool for discerning landscape use by vertebrate communities, an important though generally difficult aspect of an ancient species niche to identify.

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