, Volume 149, Issue 1, pp 12–21 | Cite as

Predicting diet, trophic level and palaeoecology from bone stable isotope analysis: a comparative study of five red deer populations

  • Rhiannon E. Stevens
  • Adrian M. Lister
  • Robert E. M. Hedges
Population Ecology


C and N stable isotope ratios of red deer (Cervus elaphus) bone collagen (154 individuals) from five modern populations occupying geographically different habitats are reported. No significant difference was observed between deer occupying forested and non-forested environments subject to similar climatic conditions suggesting a simple “canopy effect” is not observed. Mean population δ13C is negatively correlated with temperature whereas mean population δ15N is positively correlated with temperature. A weak but significant positive correlation was observed between deer age and collagen δ13C values from the Isle of Rum population (Scotland). The amount of intra-population isotope variability is not consistent among populations; thus significant numbers of individuals from each species are required for modern food web studies, for palaeodietary baseline data, and for palaeoecological studies.


Carbon Canopy effect Collagen Nitrogen Temperature 



We would like to thank Peter Ditchfield for technical assistance with isotopic analysis. We are grateful to Tim Clutton-Brock and Fiona Guinness (University of Cambridge), Tim Coulson (Imperial College London) and Josephine Pemberton (University of Edinburgh) for access to long-term data for deer on Rum. Alison Donald (University of Cambridge), Sarah Collinge (University College London) and Tamsin O’Connell (University of Cambridge) are thanked for help with the collection of bone samples. The Forestry Commission, Richard Carter, and Jochen Langbein are thanked for providing samples. Hugh Rose at the British Deer Society is thanked for general advice. This project was funded by a NERC studentship (NER/S/A/2000/03522) to R. E. Stevens. Tamsin O’Connell, Jennifer Tripp and Angela Lamb are thanked for their comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. All experimental analyses were performed in compliance with the current laws of the United Kingdom.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rhiannon E. Stevens
    • 1
    • 2
  • Adrian M. Lister
    • 3
  • Robert E. M. Hedges
    • 4
  1. 1.School of GeographyUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  2. 2.NERC Isotope Geosciences LaboratoryBritish Geological SurveyNottinghamshireUK
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of ArtUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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