Fossil Mice and Rats Show Isotopic Evidence of Niche Partitioning and Change in Dental Ecomorphology Related to Dietary Shift in Late Miocene of Pakistan
Jacobs, Louis L.
Cerling, Thure E.
Uno, Kevin T.
Ferguson, Kurt M.
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CitationKimura, Yuri, Louis L. Jacobs, Thure E. Cerling, Kevin T. Uno, Kurt M. Ferguson, Lawrence J. Flynn, and Rajeev Patnaik. 2013. “Fossil Mice and Rats Show Isotopic Evidence of Niche Partitioning and Change in Dental Ecomorphology Related to Dietary Shift in Late Miocene of Pakistan.” PLoS ONE 8 (8): e69308. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069308. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0069308.
AbstractStable carbon isotope analysis in tooth enamel is a well-established approach to infer C3 and C4 dietary composition in fossil mammals. The bulk of past work has been conducted on large herbivorous mammals. One important finding is that their dietary habits of fossil large mammals track the late Miocene ecological shift from C3 forest and woodland to C4 savannah. However, few studies on carbon isotopes of fossil small mammals exist due to limitations imposed by the size of rodent teeth, and the isotopic ecological and dietary behaviors of small mammals to climate change remain unknown. Here we evaluate the impact of ecological change on small mammals by fine-scale comparisons of carbon isotope ratios (δ13C) with dental morphology of murine rodents, spanning 13.8 to ∼2.0 Ma, across the C3 to C4 vegetation shift in the Miocene Siwalik sequence of Pakistan. We applied in-situ laser ablation GC-IRMS to lower first molars and measured two grazing indices on upper first molars. Murine rodents yield a distinct, but related, record of past ecological conditions from large herbivorous mammals, reflecting available foods in their much smaller home ranges. In general, larger murine species show more positive δ13C values and have higher grazing indices than smaller species inhabiting the same area at any given age. Two clades of murine rodents experienced different rates of morphological change. In the faster-evolving clade, the timing and trend of morphological innovations are closely tied to consumption of C4 diet during the vegetation shift. This study provides quantitative evidence of linkages among diet, niche partitioning, and dental morphology at a more detailed level than previously possible.
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