Leaping Ahead pp 173-182 | Cite as

Isotopic Variability and Lemur Diet in a Dry Madagascan Forest: A Cautionary Tale

  • Brooke E. CrowleyEmail author
  • Laurie R. Godfrey
Part of the Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects book series (DIPR)


With the increasing use of carbon and nitrogen stable isotope variations in studies of prosimian diets, it is essential to understand the full extent of this variation in food plants. Our goal here is to characterize the δ 13C and δ 15N values of plants and modern and subfossil lemurs in and near Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve, south-western Madagascar. The region is characterized by a long dry season and a shorter monsoon season. In general, we found a high degree of variability both intra- and interspecifically. Furthermore, some of the general assumptions of isotopic ecology were not supported by our results. We suggest that researchers should be cautious when interpreting isotope values, especially when the conclusions are used to model paleocommunities or to inform conservation policies.


Crassulacean Acid Metabolism Crassulacean Acid Metabolism Plant Isotopic Variability Crassulacean Acid Metabolism Photosynthesis Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Avec l’utilisation accrue des profils d’isotopes stables de carbone et d’azote dans les études portant sur les régimes alimentaires des prosimiens, il est essentiel que les variations des profils observés chez les plantes consommées soient comprises pleinement. Notre but est ici de mesurer les teneurs en δ13C et δ15N chez les plantes et les lémuriens actuels et sub-fossiles trouvés dans la Réserve Spéciale de Beza Mahafaly et ses environs. Cette région est caractérisée par une longue saison sèche et une plus brève saison de moussons. En général, nous avons constaté une importante variation aussi bien au niveau intra-spécifique qu’au niveau interspécifique. De plus, certaines des règles fondamentales de l’écologie des isotopes ne sont pas vérifiées par nos résultats. Les chercheurs doivent rester prudents dans l’interprétation des données isotopiques, plus particulièrement lorsque de telles conclusions sont appliquées à la paléo-écologie des communautés et à la conservation.



We thank the chief of the Reserve, Andry Randrianandrasana, as well as Ibrahim Antho Jacky-Youssouf, Joachim Randriamahefa, Olivier Razanajafy, Elahavelo Efitroharany, Retala, Edward, and Emilienne Rasoazanabary for their exceptional field assistance, and E. Rasoazananbary for translating our abstract, Jeannin Ranaivonasy and Lalao Andriamahefarivo for handling our permits, Leanne Nash and Margaret Schoeninger for L. leucopus data, and Nathaniel Dominy, Paul Koch and Matt Sponheimer for comments on this chapter.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeologyUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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