Trace element analyses indicative of paleodiets in Middle Miocene mammals from the Somosaguas site (Madrid, Spain)
Keywords:Geochemistry, Tooth enamel, Diagenesis, Paleoecology, Herbivores
Trace element analysis of fossil bone and enamel constitutes a useful tool to characterize the paleoecological behavior of mammals. Up to now, most trace element studies have focused on Plio-Pleistocene fossils. Here, we show that paleodietary inferences based on trace element analyses can be also obtained from ~14Ma old Miocene mammals, in a period of time when important paleoclimatic changes took place due to the development of the East Antarctic ice sheet. Trace element ratio (Ba/Ca, Sr/Ca) analyses have been performed on herbivore tooth enamel (gomphothere Gomphotherium angustidens, equid Anchitherium cf. A. cursor, suid Conohyus simorrensis and ruminants) across three stratigraphic levels from the Somosaguas site (Middle Miocene, Madrid Basin, Spain). Previous scanning electron microscope, rare earth element and stable isotope analyses suggested minimal diagenetic alteration of the tooth enamel samples. Trace element analyses reported here show different paleoecological behavior among the studied fossil taxa. Anchitherium cf. A. cursor shows higher Ba/Ca and Sr/Ca ratios than Gomphotherium angustidens, indicating the equid was a mixed-feeder, while the gomphothere was a browser. The enrichment in Ba/Ca and Sr/Ca ratios in the ruminants is attributed to differences in their gastrointestinal tracts and to a more grazing diet. A high variability in trace element values characterizes the suid Conohyus simorrensis, which is believed to be connected to some degree of omnivory.
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