Carbon isoscapes of rodent diets in the Great Plains USA deviate from regional gradients in C4 grass abundance due to a preference for C3 plant resources

Andrew W. Haveles, David L. Fox, Kena Fox-Dobbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Diet is an ecological attribute that species may adjust to cope with changing environments and may indicate how a population responds to changes in resource availability. In the Great Plains, plants utilizing the C4 photosynthetic pathway may increase in abundance in the future because of their high tolerance for warm and dry environments, which are projected to increase. How increased C4 abundance will influence grassland food webs remains unknown. Here, we evaluate how rodent diets vary relative to C4 plant biomass at the regional scale of the southern Great Plains in the U.S. We measured δ13C values of hair from 534 individuals of 14 rodent species. Resulting isoscapes of δ13C values were statistically compared to three proxies for local abundance of C4 grasses across the region. Overall, diets of most rodent species were dominated by C3-derived resources with a few species relying on C4 resources. Ordinary least squares linear regressions indicate that proxies for regional abundance of C4 grasses explain very little of the variance in δ13C values in hair for the entire rodent community, however the isoscape of rodent hair δ13C values does broadly correspond to that for δ13C values of soil organic matter. The difference between median δ13C values of granivores and folivores is significantly and highly correlated with SOM δ13C values. Results from this study can be used as a baseline for characterizing dietary shifts in response to environmental change both in the geological past and in the future, and they identify which dietary categories may be most sensitive to future changes in the regional abundance of C4 grasses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-66
Number of pages14
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019


  • Dietary reconstruction
  • Grasslands
  • Small mammal
  • Stable isotopes
  • Trophic ecology

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