Validation of stable isotope analysis for determining dietary proportions and trophic dynamics in plains sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus jamesi)

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Meyhoff, Sejer Dixon
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Arts and Science
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Department of Geography and Environment
Stable isotopes in the tissue of a consumer organism can be used to estimate the proportional utilization of foods based on different isotopic signals and can also be used to estimate changes to diet over time. In this study, stable isotopes of nitrogen (δ15N) and carbon (δ13C) were used to examine the feeding relationships of plains sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus jamesi). Sharp-tailed grouse are known to consume mostly plant food and utilize insects and spiders as a high-protein food source when available. Food web dynamics are generally poorly understood, and emerging factors such as climate change are likely to alter bird-arthropod trophic relationships. Primary feathers from 40 plains sharp-tailed grouse were analyzed and used to estimate diet proportions of vegetation and arthropods from May to October. Results indicated that plains sharp-tailed grouse may primarily utilize nutrients obtained from insect prey, mainly grasshoppers (Orthoptera: Acrididae), for primary feather synthesis.
Sharp-tailed grouse , Food webs , Stable isotopes , Arthropods , Esophageal crop analysis , Ecology , Sharp-tailed grouse -- Research , Sharp-tailed grouse -- Nutrition -- Research , Sharp-tailed grouse -- Food -- Research , Food chains (Ecology) -- Research , Stable isotopes in ecological research , Feathers -- Analysis , Dissertations, Academic