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Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope enrichment in primate tissues


Isotopic studies of wild primates have used a wide range of tissues to infer diet and model the foraging ecologies of extinct species. The use of mismatched tissues for such comparisons can be problematic because differences in amino acid compositions can lead to small isotopic differences between tissues. Additionally, physiological and dietary differences among primate species could lead to variable offsets between apatite carbonate and collagen. To improve our understanding of the isotopic chemistry of primates, we explored the apparent enrichment (ε*) between bone collagen and muscle, collagen and fur or hair keratin, muscle and keratin, and collagen and bone carbonate across the primate order. We found that the mean ε* values of proteinaceous tissues were small (≤1‰), and uncorrelated with body size or phylogenetic relatedness. Additionally, ε* values did not vary by habitat, sex, age, or manner of death. The mean ε* value between bone carbonate and collagen (5.6 ± 1.2‰) was consistent with values reported for omnivorous mammals consuming monoisotopic diets. These primate-specific apparent enrichment values will be a valuable tool for cross-species comparisons. Additionally, they will facilitate dietary comparisons between living and fossil primates.

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