Trace Element Analysis Provides Insight into the Diets of Early Late Miocene Ungulates from the Rudabánya II Locality (Hungary)

TitleTrace Element Analysis Provides Insight into the Diets of Early Late Miocene Ungulates from the Rudabánya II Locality (Hungary)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsEastham, LC, Feranec, RS, Begun, DR
JournalGeologica Acta
KeywordsHungary, Late Miocene, paleoecology, Sr/Ca ratios, Ungulates

The early Late Miocene vertebrate locality of Rudabánya II (R. II) in northeastern Hungary preserves an abundance of forest-adapted ungulate species. To better understand the ecological relationships within this ancient ecosystem, we used analysis of enamel strontium/calcium (Sr/Ca) ratios to infer dietary preferences. The goals of the analysis were to: i) determine whether these ungulate species specialized in specific plants or plant parts; ii) discern whether the Sr/Ca ratios support what was previously suggested about the ecology of these species; and iii) evaluate the factors that may have acted to promote coexistence within this diverse community of predominantly browsing herbivores. Results show significant differences in the diets of the sampled species. The highest Sr/Ca ratios were displayed by the suids Parachleuastochoerus kretzoii [B1] and Propotamochoerus palaeochoerus implying a preference for Sr-rich underground plant parts. Elevated Sr/Ca ratios yielded by the cervid Lucentia aff. pierensis and equid Hippotherium intrans are indicative of intermediate feeding. The bovid Miotragocerus sp. showed higher Sr/Ca ratios than the gomphothere Tetralophodon longirostris, which is incongruent with morphological and stable isotope data, and suggested browsing by both taxa. This finding is likely the result of a difference in digestive physiology (ruminant vs. monogastric) rather than a difference in dietary behaviour. The lowest Sr/Ca ratios were displayed by the traguild Dorcatherium naui and moschid Micromeryx flourensianussuggesting a preference for Sr-poor fruits. Resource specialization and partitioning within the local environment likely acted to decrease interspecific competition and promote coexistence within the diverse ungulate community at R. II.