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Title: Global long-term stability of individual dietary specialization in herbivorous mammals
Dietary variation within species has important ecological and evolutionary implications. While theoreticians have debated the consequences of trait variance (including dietary specialization), empirical studies have yet to examine intraspecific dietary variability across the globe and through time. Here, we use new and published serial sampled δ 13 C enamel values of herbivorous mammals from the Miocene to the present (318 individuals summarized, 4134 samples) to examine how dietary strategy (i.e. browser, mixed-feeder, grazer) affects individual isotopic variation. We find that almost all herbivores, regardless of dietary strategy, are composed of individual specialists. For example, Cormohipparion emsliei (Equidae) from the Pliocene of Florida (approx. 5 Ma) exhibits a δ 13 C enamel range of 13.4‰, but all individuals sampled have δ 13 C enamel ranges of less than or equal to 2‰ (mean = 1.1‰). Most notably, this pattern holds globally and through time, with almost all herbivorous mammal individuals exhibiting narrow δ 13 C enamel ranges (less than or equal to 3‰), demonstrating that individuals are specialized and less representative of their overall species' dietary breadth. Individual specialization probably reduces intraspecific competition, increases carrying capacities, and may have stabilizing effects on species and communities over time. Individual specialization among species more » with both narrow and broad dietary niches is common over space and time—a phenomenon not previously well recognized or documented empirically. « less
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Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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National Science Foundation
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