Dietary habits of living and fossil mammals
Mentor: Professor Catherine Badgley
Feeding habits are one of the fundamental ecological properties of individuals and species. For many modern mammals, feeding habits are poorly known because it is difficult to monitor feeding behavior for hours, days, or months in the wild. Two methods of inferring diet are stable-isotope analysis (for isotopes of carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen) and dental microwear analysis. For mammalian herbivores, stable isotopes in tooth enamel provide information about vegetation and seasonality during the period of tooth formation. Microscopic pits and scratches record properties of chewed food during the last week of an animal's life. I use both of these methods to characterize dietary attributes of living and fossil mammals. Ongoing work in my research group includes documenting stable isotope composition and dental microwear of mammals from Amboseli National Park in Kenya and from fossil mammals from Pakistan. The outcome of this research on dietary habits contributes to evaluating the environmental processes that cause changes in mammalian faunas across continents and over deep time. This research will involve lab work on the Ann Arbor campus.