Resource partitioning among top predators in a Miocene food web

M. Soledad Domingo, Laura Domingo, Catherine Badgley, Oscar Sanisidro, Jorge Morales

Abstract

The exceptional fossil sites of Cerro de los Batallones (Madrid Basin, Spain) contain abundant remains of Late Miocene mammals. From these fossil assemblages, we have inferred diet, resource partitioning and habitat of three sympatric carnivorous mammals based on stable isotopes. The carnivorans include three apex predators: two sabre-toothed cats (Felidae) and a bear dog (Amphicyonidae). Herbivore and carnivore carbon isotope (δ13C) values from tooth enamel imply the presence of a woodland ecosystem dominated by C3 plants. δ13C values and mixing-model analyses suggest that the two sabre-toothed cats, one the size of a leopard and the other the size of a tiger, consumed herbivores with similar δ13C values from a more wooded portion of the ecosystem. The two sabre-toothed cats probably hunted prey of different body sizes, and the smaller species could have used tree cover to avoid encounters with the larger felid. For the bear dog, δ13C values are higher and differ significantly from those of the sabre-toothed cats, suggesting a diet that includes prey from more open woodland. Coexistence of the sabre-toothed cats and the bear dog was likely facilitated by prey capture in different portions of the habitat. This study demonstrates the utility of stable isotope analysis for investigating the behaviour and ecology of members of past carnivoran guilds.

  • Received September 11, 2012.
  • Accepted October 16, 2012.
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