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Review
, 119 (3), 725-37

Natural Abundance Variations in Stable Isotopes and Their Potential Uses in Animal Physiological Ecology

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Review

Natural Abundance Variations in Stable Isotopes and Their Potential Uses in Animal Physiological Ecology

L Z Gannes et al. Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol.

Abstract

Chemical, biological, and physical processes lead to distinctive "isotopic signatures" in biological materials that allow tracing of the origins of organic substances. Isotopic variation has been extensively used by plant physiological ecologists and by paleontologists, and recently ecologists have adopted the use of stable isotopes to measure ecosystem patterns and processes. To date, animal physiological ecologists have made minimal use of naturally occurring stable isotopes as tracers. Here we provide a review of the current and potential uses of naturally occurring stable isotopes in animal physiological ecology. We outline the physical and biological processes that lead to variation in isotopic abundance in plants and animals. We summarize current uses in animal physiological ecology (diet reconstruction and animal movement patterns), and suggest areas of research where the use of stable isotopes can be fruitful (protein balance and turnover and the allocation of dietary nutrients). We argue that animal physiological ecologists can benefit from including the measurement of naturally occurring stable isotopes in their battery of techniques. We also argue that animal physiologists can make an important contribution to the emerging field of stable isotopes in biology by testing experimentally the plethora of assumptions upon which the techniques rely.

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