Small Mammal Diets Through 4 million Years of Environmental Change in the Meade Basin, southwest Kansas
Collaborators: David L. Fox (UMN), Kena Fox-Dobbs (U. of Puget Sound), Robert Martin (Murray State U.)
As part of an NSF funded project, part of my dissertation includes using fossil specimens that have been previously collected and currently housed in various museum collections. The fossil specimens are from the Meade Basin in the southwest corner of Kansas. My work will focus on specimens from the last five million years and I will analyze the preserved teeth using laser ablation coupled to a mass spectrometer for carbon and oxygen stable isotopes. These stable isotope data will provide insight into how small mammals partitioned food resources on the landscape and what their dietary responses were to environmental changes.
Laser Ablation has permitted the use of small mammals teeth for stable isotope analysis. The figure above are squirrel molars, gopher incisors, and mouse mandible mounted for analysis. The figure below are gopher incisors that have been sampled using the laser. The schematic to the right indicates visually the increase of %C4 plants in the Great Plains since the Miocene. Blue shading indicate relative positions of rodent faunas deemed suitable for stable isotope analyses, and the image on top represent modern rodent communities that represent 0 Ma.