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Comparative Study
, 280 (1773), 20132324

Chimpanzee Fauna Isotopes Provide New Interpretations of Fossil Ape and Hominin Ecologies

Affiliations
Comparative Study

Chimpanzee Fauna Isotopes Provide New Interpretations of Fossil Ape and Hominin Ecologies

Sherry V Nelson. Proc Biol Sci.

Abstract

Carbon and oxygen stable isotopes within modern and fossil tooth enamel record the aspects of an animal's diet and habitat use. This investigation reports the first isotopic analyses of enamel from a large chimpanzee community and associated fauna, thus providing a means of comparing fossil ape and early hominin palaeoecologies with those of a modern ape. Within Kibale National Park forest, oxygen isotopes differentiate primate niches, allowing for the first isotopic reconstructions of degree of frugivory versus folivory as well as use of arboreal versus terrestrial resources. In a comparison of modern and fossil community isotopic profiles, results indicate that Sivapithecus, a Miocene ape from Pakistan, fed in the forest canopy, as do chimpanzees, but inhabited a forest with less continuous canopy or fed more on leaves. Ardipithecus, an early hominin from Ethiopia, fed both arboreally and terrestrially in a more open habitat than inhabited by chimpanzees.

Keywords: Ardipithecus; Sivapithecus; chimpanzees; stable isotopes.

Figures

Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Carbon and oxygen isotopic values for Kibale fauna. Individuals cluster within a species, indicating niche separation. Oxygen values distinguish between forest floor and canopy feeders; within the canopy, oxygen distinguishes between frugivores and folivores. BW, black-and-white. (Online version in colour.)
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Distribution of carbon values for Kibale, Sivapithecus faunas, and post-Sivapithecus faunas. The Sivapithecus fauna overlap with Kibale fauna but overall exhibit higher carbon values, indicative of more woodland habitat. The post-Sivapithecus fauna indicate a shift to even more open habitat and less overlap with Kibale. For each faunal set, the middle line represents the median. The bottom of the box is the 25th percentile, while the top of the box is the 75th percentile. T-bars extend to 1.5 times the height of the box or to the minimum and maximum values. Points are outliers, with asterisks being extreme outliers more than three times the height of the box. For Kibale, warthogs are included in the analysis but not shown on graph, given their extreme value of −2.4‰.
Figure 3.
Figure 3.
(a) When Kibale primate δ18O values are divided into thirds, terrestrial feeders fall into the lower third, arboreal frugivores fall into the middle third, and arboreal folivores fall at the top of the middle third and into the upper third. (b) Within Aramis primates, Ardipithecus falls into the lower and middle thirds, indicative of feeding both terrestrially and on arboreal fruits. Pliopapio falls within the middle third, comparable with Kibale arboreal frugivores. Kuseracolobus falls into the upper third, comparable with Kibale arboreal folivores. Each species is represented by its average and standard deviation. BW, black-and-white; C, colobus.

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