Understanding the Ecology of Mammalian Carnivorans and Herbivores from Valdegoba Cave (Burgos, Northern Spain) Through Stable Isotope Analysis

TitleUnderstanding the Ecology of Mammalian Carnivorans and Herbivores from Valdegoba Cave (Burgos, Northern Spain) Through Stable Isotope Analysis
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsFeranec, RS, Garcia, N, Diez, JC, Arsuaga, JL
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
KeywordsC-13, Diet, Ecology, Mammal, O-18, Pleistocene

Stable carbon and oxygen isotope analyses of mammalian carnivoran and herbivore species from the late Pleistocene Valdegoba cave site in northern Spain imply competition and partitioning in resource use. In general, the data support the previously recognized ecology for the analyzed species. δ13C values show that the ecosystem around the cave was dominated by C3 plants. The observed δ18O values are similar to what is found in modern environments. The analyzed bovids, Bos primigenius, Capra pyrenaica, and Rupicapra rupicapra, showed the most positive δ13C values. Bos primigenius had the most positive mean carbon isotope value and is suggested to feed on grasses in open environments. Values for Capra pyrenaica primarily indicate grass feeding, while Rupicapra rupicapra had the widest diet for the analyzed species, likely including grass and browse. Cervus elaphus, Equus ferus, Equus hydruntinus, and Stephanorhinus hemitoechus displayed more negative δ13C values indicating the use of similar resources. The smallest species analyzed, Castor fiber, displayed the most negative δ13C and δ18O values, implying a preference for eating C3 plants and being semi-aquatic. The canids, Canis lupus and Vulpes vulpes, displayed the most positive δ13C and δ18O values, and overlap many of the sampled ungulate species. Positive δ18O values in canids implies that this group obtains much of its water from its prey, uses a different water source, or has physiological differences from the other carnivorans that influence oxygen isotope values. Lynx pardinus had values similar to the canids. Crocuta crocuta had δ13C values more negative than expected for a generalist predator. These values are likely due to concentration of diet on taxa from more forested environments. The most negative δ13C values are observed in the bears, Ursus arctos and Ursus spelaeus. These values are the likely result of hibernation and the inclusion of significant vegetation in bear diets.