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Gastornis bone isotopes indicate herbivorous diet

From: Ben Creisler

A new online paper:

D. Angst, C. Lécuyer, R. Amiot, E. Buffetaut, F. Fourel, F. Martineau,
S. Legendre, A. Abourachid & A. Herrel (2014)
Isotopic and anatomical evidence of an herbivorous diet in the Early
Tertiary giant bird Gastornis. Implications for the structure of
Paleocene terrestrial ecosystems.
Naturwissenschaften (advance online publication)
DOI: 10.1007/s00114-014-1158-2

The mode of life of the early Tertiary giant bird Gastornis has long
been a matter of controversy. Although it has often been reconstructed
as an apex predator feeding on small mammals, according to other
interpretations, it was in fact a large herbivore. To determine the
diet of this bird, we analyze here the carbon isotope composition of
the bone apatite from Gastornis and contemporaneous herbivorous
mammals. Based on 13C-enrichment measured between carbonate and diet
of carnivorous and herbivorous modern birds, the carbonate δ13C values
of Gastornis bone remains, recovered from four Paleocene and Eocene
French localities, indicate that this bird fed on plants. This is
confirmed by a morphofunctional study showing that the reconstructed
jaw musculature of Gastornis was similar to that of living herbivorous
birds and unlike that of carnivorous forms. The herbivorous Gastornis
was the largest terrestrial tetrapod in the Paleocene biota of Europe,
unlike the situation in North America and Asia, where Gastornis is
first recorded in the early Eocene, and the largest Paleocene animals
were herbivorous mammals. The structure of the Paleocene terrestrial
ecosystems of Europe may have been similar to that of some large
islands, notably Madagascar, prior to the arrival of humans.