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Diet reconstruction of ancient brown bears (Ursus arctos) from Mont Ventoux (France) using bone collagen stable isotope biogeochemistry (13C, 15N)

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A very rich assemblage of ancient brown bears (Ursus arctos arctos Linnaeus, 1758) from Mont Ventoux caves (France) has been investigated using carbon and nitrogen isotopic composition of bone collagen. The isotopic data showed that these bears were feeding in an open environment and consumed mainly plant food items. The access to livestock meat appeared to have been much more limited for these ancient brown bears than for 20th-century Pyrenean bears, suggesting that husbandry patterns had kept bears away from domestic herds. The isotopic variations observed are large according to the ontogenic stage of the bears when they died, which could be accounted for by the isotopic changes that occur during hibernation of the lactating female bear and by different time periods averaged in bone collagen, and without the need to involve different food resources for cubs relative to adult bears.

Un très riche assemblage d'ours bruns (Ursus arctos arctos Linnaeus, 1758) anciens de grottes du Mont Ventoux (France) a été étudié en utilisant les compositions isotopiques du carbone et de l'azote du collagène osseux. Les données isotopiques montrent que ces ours se nourrissaient dans un environnement ouvert et qu'ils consommaient une majorité de nourriture végétale. L'accès au bétail domestique semble avoir été beaucoup plus limité pour les ours anciens que pour des ours pyrénéens du 20ième siècle, ce qui suggère que les modes d'élevages maintenaient les ours éloignés des troupeaux. Les variations isotopiques observées selon le stade ontogénique au décès des ours sont importantes. Elles peuvent être liées aux changements isotopiques qui se produisent pendant l'hibernation de l'ourse allaitante et aux différentes périodes moyennées dans le collagène osseux, sans qu'il ne soit nécessaire de faire intervenir des sources alimentaires différentes pour les oursons et pour les ours adultes.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-04-01

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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