Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 33, Issue 6, pp 855–872 | Cite as

Stable isotope signatures and the trophic diversification of akodontine rodents

  • Rafaela V. MissagiaEmail author
  • Bruce D. Patterson
  • Fernando A. Perini
Original Paper


Stable isotope analyses are frequently used to study trophic interactions, diet, and community processes, but they have seldom been applied to investigate the trophic niche structure of entire clades. In this paper, we assess stable isotopes information in a phylogenetic context to evaluate trophic evolution across the phylogeny of a diversified group of Neotropical cricetid rodents. A total of 139 hair samples of 47 species of Akodontini rodents were collected from five museum mammal collections and submitted to stable isotope analyses for δ13C and δ15N values. The resulting isotopic values were compared among the four main clades within the tribe. The phylogenetic signal of isotope values was estimated using a phylogenetic tree of Akodontini. Our results corroborate previous impressions that, in general, akodontines include more animal matter in their diet than other Neotropical rodents, but the lack of information for some species precludes more specific inferences. Some species appear to have relatively restricted niches, but the large variance observed in other species may be related to dietary and habitat differences related to ecological factors throughout the distribution of wide-ranging species. We found low phylogenetic signal for δ13C and δ15N values, suggesting that different regions within the isotopic niche space were occupied independently many times throughout akodontine evolutionary history. The δ13C/δ15N bi-plot indicates that the four main lineages occupy the trophic niche space in similar ways, although differing in trophic diversity. Our results represent new ecological information and an approach that can be useful in studying the evolution of trophic niches, and highlight the importance of museum specimen-based research for evolutionary ecology studies.


Stable isotopes Akodontini Trophic niche SIBER Diet 



We thank Robert Voss, Darrin Lunde, Louise Emmons and Claudia Costa who kindly allowed the sampling of specimens under their care for the stable isotope analysis. We gratefully acknowledge Isabel Distefano and Kevin Feldheim from the Field Museum’s Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution, and Jennifer Melo de Andrade and Teofânia Dutra Amorim from the Centro de Pesquisas Hidráulicas of Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais for the logistical assistance with the preparation of the hair samples. We thank Chandelle Macdonald and the Stable Isotope Facility staff of the University of Wyoming for performing the stable isotope analysis of the samples; and Adam Ferguson and John Phelps from the Field Museum of Natural History for help with the sampling process and shipping. Regan Dunn, Raisa Rodarte and Raul Costa provided useful information on stable isotope analyses on preliminary stages of this work. We are grateful for useful comments from two anonymous reviewers and from the Associate Editor and Editor-in-Chief, that greatly improved the manuscript. The dispatch of the samples from Brazil was authorized according to registration A06DC31 of Sisgen. Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) gave R.V.M. financial support through regular (Finance Code 0001) and PDSE (88881.133833/2016-1) fellowships.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

10682_2019_10009_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (169 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 168 kb)
10682_2019_10009_MOESM2_ESM.xls (56 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (XLS 56 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PPG - Zoologia/Departamento de Zoologia - Instituto de Ciências BiológicasUniversidade Federal de Minas GeraisBelo HorizonteBrazil
  2. 2.Integrative Research CenterField Museum of Natural HistoryChicagoUSA

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