American Journal of Primatology | VOL. 85

A skew in poo: Biases in primate fecal isotope analysis and recommendations for standardized sample preparation

Publication Date Oct 14, 2022


Feces are a treasure trove in the study of animal behavior and ecology. Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis allows to assessthe dietary niches of elusive primate species and primate breastfeeding behavior. However, some fecal isotope data may unwillingly be biased towardthe isotope ratios of undigested plant matter, requiring more consistent sample preparation protocols. We assess the impact of this potential data skew in 114 fecal samples of wild bonobos (Pan paniscus) by measuring the isotope differences (Δ13 C, Δ15 N) between bulk fecal samples containing larger particles (>1 mm) and filtered samples containing only small particles (<1 mm). We assess the influence of fecal carbon and nitrogen content (ΔC:N) and sample donor age (subadult, adult) on the resulting Δ13 C, Δ15 N values (n = 228). Additionally, we measure the isotope ratios in three systematically sieved fecal samples of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus), with particle sizes ranging from 20 μm to 8 mm (n = 30). We found differences in fecal carbon and nitrogen content, with the smaller fecal fraction containing more nitrogen on average. While the Δ13 C values were small and not affected by age or ΔC:N, the Δ15 N values were significantly influenced by fecal ΔC:N, possibly resulting from the differing proportions of undigested plant macroparticles. Significant relationships between carbon stable isotope ratios (δ13 C) values and %C in large fecal fractions of both age groups corroborated this assessment. Δ15 N values were significantly larger in adult...


Fecal Nitrogen Content Isotope Ratios Nitrogen Stable Isotope Ratios Carbon Stable Isotope Ratios Primate Feces Study Of Animal Behavior Fecal Isotope Nitrogen Isotope Analysis Fecal Carbon Fecal Fraction

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