Send to

Choose Destination
Naturwissenschaften. 2010 Mar;97(3):299-309. doi: 10.1007/s00114-009-0642-6. Epub 2010 Feb 2.

Stable carbon isotope reconstructions of diet and paleoenvironment from the late Middle Pleistocene Snake Cave in Northeastern Thailand.

Author information

iPHEP, UMR CNRS 6046, Université de Poitiers SFA, 40 avenue du Recteur Pineau, 86022, Poitiers, France.


Thailand's geographical location in the tropics and almost complete, relatively uninterrupted forest cover makes it valuable for paleodiet and paleoclimate research. We present the first dietary and environmental reconstructions in Northeastern Thailand, using stable isotope abundances in mammalian tooth enamel from the late Middle Pleistocene locality, Tham Wiman Nakin (Snake Cave), which reflect a much higher (over 70%) than modern (13%) occurrence of C4 plants. Bovids and cervids appear to have had almost entirely a C4 plant diet. Carnivores consumed a mixture of C3 (suids) and C4 (bovids, cervids) consumers. Rhinoceroses and orangutan appear to have maintained their preference through time for forested or open C3 environment, respectively. (13)C/(12)C from bone bioapatite, horn and hair of modern Southeast Asian mammals almost exclusively demonstrate C3 vegetation dominance. C4 consumption is rare in analysed modern species and it could be related to anthropogenic influences such as ingestion of domestic crops or livestock. Interesting implications emerge in the C4 vegetation distribution in southern Eurasian ecosystems, indicating that Southeast Asia, south of the Tibet, could be part of the global C4 vegetation spread, which occurred around 7 Ma. However, the C4 percentage in ecosystems varied geographically. Despite modern reversal towards C3 habitats due to factors such as increasing CO(2), we think that anthropological influences may be responsible for habitat and dietary changes in extant species. Bovids demonstrate the most significant shift in diet and habitat through time, from C4-dominated open habitats to C3-dominated habitats indicative of dense forest understory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center