Feeding ecology and habitat preferences of top predators from two Miocene carnivore-rich assemblages
Domingo et al
Carnivore-rich fossil sites are uncommon in the fossil record and, accordingly, provide valuable opportunities to study predators from vantages that are rarely applied to ancient faunas. Through stable isotopes of carbon and a Bayesian mixing model, we analyze time-successive (nearly contemporaneous), late Miocene carnivoran populations from two fossil sites (Batallones-1 and Batallones-3) from central Spain. Stable isotopes of carbon in tooth enamel provide a reliable and direct methodology to track ancient diets. These two carnivoran-dominated fossil sites display differences in the composition and abundance of the carnivoran species, with some species present at both sites and some present only at one site. This disparity has been interpreted as the consequence of habitat differences between Batallones-1, the older site, and Batallones-3, the younger site. However, carbon isotope values of carnivore and herbivore tooth enamel suggest a common habitat of C3 woodland originally present at both sites. The differences in the carnivoran faunas rather may be the consequence of the dynamics of species entrance and exit from the Madrid Basin during the time elapsed between Batallones-1 and Batallones-3 and changes in population densities due to biotic factors. We infer higher levels of interspecific competition in Batallones-3 than in Batallones-1 because of the larger number of similar-sized, sympatric predators; the clear overlap in their δ13C values (except for the amphicyonid Magericyon anceps); and similarity of their preferred prey: the hipparionine horses. Finally, carbon stable isotopic composition of Indarctos arctoides teeth implies that this ursid was a carnivorous omnivore rather than a herbivorous omnivore. This work demonstrates the insights that stable isotopes can provide in characterizing the feeding ecology and trophic interactions of ancient carnivoran taxa.