Patrick Degryse? His main research efforts focus on the use of mineral raw materials in ancient ceramic, glass, metal and building stone production, using petrographical, mineralogical and isotope geochemical techniques. He teaches geology, geochemistry, archaeometry and natural sciences in archaeology, and outside the lab is active in several field projects in the eastern Mediterranean.
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The authors postulated that after the invasion of lake trout Salvelinus namaycush , decline of cutthroat trout and their mammalian predators will disrupt the transport of nutrients from the lake to its surrounding watershed. In all these studies, conclusions were drawn only after careful consideration of the limitations of the approach. Indeed, a review of the literature will reveal that well-designed isotopic studies can yield interesting and valid conclusions. This rule applies not only to dietary and trophic studies but should also be followed by those employing stable isotope analyses to study animal migrations.
One of the 1st studies to use an isotopic seascape to track animal movements was conducted by Schell et al. Using the same concept, Chamberlain et al. Similar to baleen, fur and feathers are largely inert tissues that record the isotopic values of assimilated nutrients at the time of growth e. Similarly, because basal rock composition and weathering create variation in 87 Sr: 86 Sr ratios on the landscape, their incorporation into animal tissues can be used to track movements.
For example, using 87 Sr: 86 Sr in fossil tooth enamel, Hoppe and Koch described long-range movements of mastodons Mammut in Florida during the Pleistocene, but observed relatively short distances traveled by mammoths Mammuthus. Similar to dietary and trophic studies, the application of stable isotope analysis to investigate migration will require careful planning and clear understanding of the physiological and ecological processes that influence isotopic incorporation into fur, feather, teeth, or baleen.
The incorporation of hydrogen and thus D and oxygen and thus 18 O into animal tissues is significantly more complex than that of carbon and nitrogen. In essence, carbon and nitrogen are largely assimilated by animals from 1 source—their diet or in some cases from the excreta of the microbial gut flora [see Greller ; Whiteman et al.
In contrast, hydrogen and oxygen can be derived from drinking water, the water contents of the diet, the skeletons of the macronutrients of the diet, as well as from molecular exchange both during life as well as after death or shedding with atmospheric gases McKechnie et al.
Each of these sources in turn can be variable. Indeed, in a series of elegant, controlled studies, Wolf demonstrated that large individual variation in incorporation of hydrogen and oxygen may mask any environmentally generated patterns in isotopic signatures. The observed individual variation in controlled experiments is further complicated by processes of habitat use and diet selection of individual animals within a given geographic area Fig.
Imagine the mourning doves from the Sonoran Desert Wolf et al. Carleton, New Mexico State University, pers. In each bird this combination can vary based on the amount of water or saguaro they consumed. Thus, if members of the same population use different water sources and vary in diet composition, the intrapopulation variation may exceed that derived from latitude. Under such conditions misassignment of individuals to a specific geographic area where feathers or fur have been grown will be more likely than not.
Indeed, Rocque et al.
Unfortunately, studying migration with stable isotope analysis may be hampered by another key problem—the high variation in isotopic values of available water at any given sampling location coupled with paucity of data for vast geographic areas. In creating isotopic maps, researchers such as Bowen et al.
These precipitation maps have limited accuracy in North America, and for continents such as Europe, Africa, South America, and Australia they are virtually uninformative. These fundamental problems may only be solved by increasing the number of sampling stations globally. Because of the inherent problems with incorporation of hydrogen and oxygen into animal tissues and the low accuracy of isotopic maps, assignment of individuals to specific areas required the development of new analytical tools.
Wunder and Norris were 1st to develop Bayesian probability density surfaces, which account for some of the uncertainty and yield probabilistic assignments of individuals to geographic areas Wunder , For a full discussion of this methodology and its applications see Wunder Despite the problems we discussed above, several authors have designed and executed some high-quality studies. The spectacular migration of monarch butterflies Danaus plex-ippus was described by Wassenaar and Hobson Interpretation of the isotopic data was possible because of the extensive laboratory and field-rearing experiments by Hobson et al.
Lott et al. Similarly, Dugger et al. In that study, the authors assigned individuals to a continent-scale geographic area, avoiding issues with small-scale variation. The authors postulated that unlike capital breeders i. In that system, males that remained at high-elevation lekking areas during the nonbreeding season were able to maintain or increase their social status and thus increase mating opportunities. This benefit was outweighed by lower survival during severe rainstorms likely causing males in lower body condition to migrate to lower elevations Boyle et al.
A common theme in all these studies, which we advocated above, was the investigation of individual responses to environmental conditions and the influence of these responses on fitness components. In addition, the underlying isoscape was sufficiently variable or well-documented to override the problems of individual variation, and the turnover rate of the tissues corresponded with the sampling schedule.
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As is clear from these studies, here too, the successful use of stable isotope analysis is dependent on careful design and implementation. In cases where the underlying variation in natural abundance is uninformative or where individual variation may mask landscape-level patterns, animal migration and dispersal could potentially be traced with artificially enriched isotopic labeling. Technological advances in chemistry facilitated the production of organic compounds that are partially composed of heavy isotopes of particular elements. For example, a quick visit to the Web site of 1 of the large suppliers of stable isotopes will reveal long lists of compounds from ammonium to amino acids that have 1 or all of their carbons in the form of 13 C, their nitrogen in the form 15 N, or all hydrogen atoms in the form of D.
Traditionally, enriched isotopes have been used in agricultural and biomedical research mostly to investigate the effects of fertilizers on crop yields e. More recently, enriched stable isotopes were applied to assess oxidation rate of different dietary macronutrients in several species including house sparrows Passer domesticus — McCue et al.