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Data from: Combining stable isotopes, morphological, and molecular analyses to reconstruct the diet of free-ranging consumers

Citation

Bonin, Michaël et al. (2021), Data from: Combining stable isotopes, morphological, and molecular analyses to reconstruct the diet of free-ranging consumers, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.fqz612jq7

Abstract

1. Accurate estimates of animal diet composition are essential to untangle complex interactions in food webs. Biomarkers and molecular tools are increasingly used to estimate diet, sometimes alongside traditional dietary tracing methods. Yet only a few empirical studies have compared the outcomes and potential gains of using a combination of these methods, especially using free-ranging animals with distinct foraging preferences.

2. We used stable isotopes, morphological and molecular analyses to investigate the diet of free-ranging consumers with two distinct diet types, i.e. carnivore and omnivore. By combining the three analytical methods to assess the diet of consumers during the same period, we aimed to identify the limits of each method and to assess the potential benefits of their combined use to derive diet estimates.

3. Our results showed that the different methods led to a consistent diet description for carnivores, which have a relatively simple diet mixture, but their outcomes somewhat differed for omnivore, which have a more complex diet. Still, the combined use of morphological and molecular analyses enhanced the diversity of food sources detected compared to the use of a single method independently of diet types. Precision of diet estimates derived from stable isotope analyses was improved by the addition of priors obtained from morphological and molecular diet analyses of the same population.

4.Although we used free-ranging animals without a known diet, our empirical testing of three of the most widely used methods of diet determination highlights the limits of relying over a single approach, especially in systems with few or no a priori information about the foraging habits of consumers. The choice of an appropriate approach of diet description should be a key step when planning dietary studies of free-ranging populations. We recommend using more than one dietary determination methods especially for species with complex diet mixtures.

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