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Reconstructing Diet from the Ground Up: Isotopic Dietary Ecology of Chimpanzees at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda

Carlson, Bryce (2011)
Dissertation (179 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Kingston, John
Committee Members: Hadley, Craig ; Sellen, Daniel W.
Research Fields: Anthropology, Physical
Keywords: Stable isotopes; Carbon; Nitrogen; Chimpanzee; Compound specific isotopic analysis; Dietary ecology; C3; Uganda
Program: Laney Graduate School, Anthropology
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The central questions in biological anthropology relate to processes of acclimation, adaptation, and evolution that shaped and continue to shape our species in the face of an ever-changing environment. One of the most direct ways to access these questions is through dietary reconstruction. There is no more intimate relationship between an organism and its environment than through the resources it consumes. Plants and animals alike take their environment in to construct, maintain, or reproduce themselves. The geographical distribution, physical properties, and social significance of various dietary resources have played key roles in the evolution of morphology, social structure, foraging, reproductive behavior, life history, etc.

Of the numerous methods utilized for recovering our evolutionary relationships with food, dietary reconstruction via stable isotopic analyses is uniquely capable of quantifying the intake of both animal and plant based resources. To date, however, most applications remain limited in scope as a result of insufficient ecological data on stable isotopic variation and distribution within environments relevant for hominin evolution. This project seeks to lay such a framework for future analyses, to characterize the isotopic dietary ecology of a large bodied omnivorous primate in a C3-dominated East African environment.

This project examines the dietary ecology of Ngogo chimpanzees (Kibale National Park, Uganda) with three interconnected analyses. The first investigates temporal variation in nutrient composition and foraging behavior. The second characterizes dietary ecology from a stable isotopic perspective and establishes an interpretive framework for previous and future dietary reconstructions from extant, as well as extinct, primates. The third analysis investigates whether foods are isotopically heterogeneous, or specifically, whether the highly digestible macronutrient fraction is isotopically equivalent to the less digestible neutral detergent fiber fraction.

These three analyses engage chimpanzee dietary ecology as a means for investigating our evolving relationships with food in the near and distant past, and represent novel contributions including (1) the report of diurnal nutrient variation associated with chimpanzee foraging behavior, (2) the isotopic characterization of a chimpanzee dietary niche within a closed canopy East African forest, and (3) the first fiber fraction isotopic analysis of the diet for any primate.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction, p1

2. Dietary Ecology: Diurnal nutrient cycling among young saplings of Pterygota mildbraedii and Celtis africanus, p21

3. Isotopic Dietary Ecology: Bulk δ13C and δ15N characterization of the chimpanzee dietary niche at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda, p64

4. Compound Specific Isotopic Dietary Ecology: Neutral detergent fiber δ13C within the chimpanzee dietary niche at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda, p114

5. Discussion and future direction, p147


application/pdf Dissertation/Thesis 179 pages (1.9 MB) [Access copy of Dissertation/Thesis]
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