Ursidae: The Undergraduate Research Journal at the University of Northern Colorado

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Marian Hamilton

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Second Faculty Sponsor

Pepper Meuller

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Diet is a critical component of the ecology of an animal. Many dietary reconstructions involve destruction of the sample. Portable X-Ray fluorescence (pXRF), however, is a non-destructive method of gathering elemental data. This is important for research in biological anthropology and diet reconstructions because it leaves a sample intact of which there might only be few specimens. There has been a gap in dietary reconstructions using non-destructive methods like pXRF which is portable, cheaper, and as accurate as destructive methods and should therefore be implemented into research of this nature. This research attempts to validate this method by determining dietary information about six primate skulls. By looking at strontium and calcium ratios (Sr/Ca) within the teeth of these primates, I assess folivory (leaf-eating) versus frugivory (fruit-eating) and dietary breadth. Because leaves have higher Sr/Ca ratios than fruits, it is likely that primates with a low reading of Sr/Ca ratios fall into the frugivore diet range, whereas the opposite indicate a folivorous diet preference. A comparison to a mesowear study done on the same primates arrived at the same results as this study, supporting the use of pXRF as a non-destructive means of diet reconstruction. These results support pXRF implementation on a greater scale for the purpose of diet reconstruction and diet breadth assessment.

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