Food web and palaeodietary studies

Compound specific stable isotope techniques (i.e. δ13C, δ15N, δ2H values) are an extremely effective way to study contemporary food webs and palaeodiet. Approaches may be pro-active or passive where the former might involve labeling dietary choices given to organisms or introducing a pulse of stable istopically labelled substrate to an ecosystem (e.g. soil collembola, 13C-labeled bicarbonate added to a lake) whereas a passive approach might involve using the δ15N values obtained from individual amino acids to reconstruct a trophic hierarchy in an ecosystem or identify the trophic niche that human populations and/or animals occupied in Antiquity. The facility caters for all such compound specific led studies drawing upon a long history as both developer and practioner in this area.

Further reading

Chamberlain, P. M., Bull, I. D., Black, H. J., Ineson, P. and Evershed, R. P. (2006) Collembolan trophic preferences determined using fatty acid distributions and compound-specific stable carbon isotope values. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 38, 1275-1281.

Taylor, J.D., McKew, B.A, Kuhl, A., McGenity, T.J. and Underwood, G.J.C. (2013) Microphytobenthic extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) in intertidal sediments fuel both generalist and specialist EPS-degrading bacteria. Limnology and Oceanography  58, 1463-1480.

Webb, E.C., Honch, N.V., Dunn, P.J.H., Linderholm, A., Eriksson, G., LidénRichard, K. and Evershed, R.P. (2018) Compound-specific amino acid isotopic proxies for distinguishing between terrestrial and aquatic resource consumption. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 10, 1-18.


Image of a food web
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