Royal Society Open Science
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Stable isotopes are powerful tools for elucidating ecological trends in extant vertebrate communities, though their application to Mesozoic ecosystems is complicated by a lack of extant isotope data from comparable environments/ecosystems (e.g. coastal floodplain forest environments, lacking significant C4 plant components). We sampled 20 taxa across a broad phylogenetic, body size, and physiological scope from the Atchafalaya River Basin of Louisiana as an environmental analogue to the Late Cretaceous coastal floodplains of North America. Samples were analysed for stable carbon, oxygen and nitrogen isotope compositions from bioapatite and keratin tissues to test the degree of ecological resolution that can be determined in a system with similar environmental conditions, and using similar constraints, as those in many Mesozoic assemblages. Isotopic results suggest a broad overlap in resource use among taxa and considerable terrestrial–aquatic interchange, highlighting the challenges of ecological interpretation in C3 systems, particularly when lacking observational data for comparison. We also propose a modified oxygen isotope-temperature equation that uses mean endotherm and mean ectotherm isotope data to more precisely predict temperature when compared with measured Atchafalaya River water data. These results provide a critical isotopic baseline for coastal floodplain forests, and act as a framework for future studies of Mesozoic palaeoecology.
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