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Matthew C. Rogers, Grant V. Hilderbrand, David D. Gustine, Kyle Joly, William B. Leacock, Buck A. Mangipane & Jeffrey M. Welker (2020) Splitting hairs: dietary niche breadth modelling using stable isotope analysis of a sequentially grown tissue, Isotopes in Environmental and Health Studies, 56:4, 358-369, DOI: 10.1080/10256016.2020.1787404

Splitting hairs : dietary niche breadth modelling using stable isotope analysis of a sequentially grown tissue

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Author: Rogers, Matthew C.1,2; Hilderbrand, Grant V.3; Gustine, David D.4;
Organizations: 1Department of Biology and Wildlife, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA
2NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Auke Bay Laboratories, Juneau, AK, USA
3Regional Office, Anchorage, 99501, AK, USA
4National Park Service, Grand Teton National Park, Moose, WY, USA
5National Park Service, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Fairbanks, AK, USA
6US Fish and Wildlife Service, Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, Kodiak, AK, USA
7National Park Service, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Port Alsworth, AK, USA
8Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, AK, USA
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Informa, 2020
Publish Date: 2022-03-25


Stable isotope data from durable, sequentially grown tissues (e.g. hair, claw, and baleen) is commonly used for modelling dietary niche breadth. The use of tissues grown over multiple months to years, however, has the potential to complicate isotopic niche breadth modelling, as time-averaged stable isotope signals from whole tissues may obscure information available from chronologically resolved stable isotope signals in serially sectioned tissues.

We determined if whole samples of brown bear guard hair produced different isotopic niche breadth estimates than those produced from subsampled, serially sectioned samples of the same tissue from the same set of individuals. We sampled guard hair from brown bears (Ursus arctos) in four regions of Alaska with disparate biogeographies and dietary resource availability. Whole hair and serially sectioned hair samples were used to produce paired isotopic dietary niche breadth estimates for each region in the SIBER Bayesian model framework in R.

Isotopic data from serially sectioned hair consistently produced larger estimates of isotopic dietary niche breadth than isotope data from whole hair samples. Serial sampling captures finer-scale changes in diet and when cumulatively used to estimate isotopic niche breadth, the serially sampled isotope data more fully captures dietary variability and true isotopic niche breadth.

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Series: Isotopes in environmental and health studies
ISSN: 1025-6016
ISSN-E: 1477-2639
ISSN-L: 1025-6016
Volume: 56
Issue: 4
Pages: 358 - 369
DOI: 10.1080/10256016.2020.1787404
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
1172 Environmental sciences
Copyright information: © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.