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Climate and Habitat Reconstruction Using Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotope Ratios of Collagen in Prehistoric Herbivore Teeth from Kenya

  • Stanley H. Ambrose (a1) and Michael J. DeNiro (a2)

Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios have been determined for tooth collagen of 27 prehistoric herbivores from a rock shelter in the central Rift Valley of Kenya. Collagen samples whose isotope ratios were not altered by diagenesis were identified using several analytical methods. During the later Holocene, when the climate was as dry or drier than at present, the isotopic compositions of individual animals are similar to those of modern individuals of the same species. During the earlier Holocene, when the climate was wetter than at present, the δ15N and δ13C values are lower than those for their modern counterparts. When diagenetic factors can be discounted and adequate modern comparative data are available, stable isotope analysis of herbivore teeth and bones can be used to evaluate prehistoric climate and habitat conditions.

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Quaternary Research
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