Dietary and environmental reconstruction with stable isotope analyses of herbivore tooth enamel from the Miocene locality of Fort Ternan, Kenya

Thure E. Cerling, John M. Harris, Stanley H. Ambrose, Meave G. Leakey, Nikos Solounias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Tooth enamel of nine Middle Miocene mammalian herbivores from Fort Ternan, Kenya, was analyzed for δ13C and δ18O. The δ18O values of the tooth enamel compared with pedogenic and diagenetic carbonate confirm the use of stable isotope analysis of fossil tooth enamel as a paleoenvironmental indicator. Furthermore, the δ18O of tooth enamel indicates differences in water sources between some of the mammals. The δ13C values of tooth enamel ranged from -8·6- -13·0%0 which is compatible with a pure C3 diet, though the possibility of a small C4 fraction in the diet of a few of the specimens sampled is not precluded. The carbon isotopic data do not support environmental reconstructions of a Serengeti-typed wooded grassland with a significant proportion of C4 grasses. This study does not preclude the presence of C3 grasses at Fort Ternan; it is possible that C3 grasses could have had a wider geographic range if atmospheric CO2 levels were higher than the present values.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)635-650
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Volume33
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1997

Keywords

  • Carbon isotopes
  • Diet
  • Enamel
  • Fort ternan
  • Kenya
  • Miocene
  • Photosynthetic pathway

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology

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