Carbon and nitrogen isotopic signatures of bat guanos as record of past environments


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Carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios were measured for various ecogeochemical samples relevant to bat guano ecosystems. In particular, ca. 800-year-old subfossil guano from Jackson's Bay Cave Compex, Jamaica, yielded ratios similar to the modern guano from other Jamaican bat caves but quite different from modern guano of the same area. Diagenetic change and differences in bat food habits were unlikely explanations for the observation. Instead, insects that feed on C4 and CAM plants were the main prey for the bats in present Jackson's Bay area, while the ultimate source of organic matter for bats in other Jamaican caves and for the bats that deposited guano in Jackson's Bay Great Cave ca. 800 years ago were C3 photosynthesis. We suggest that the isotopic data indicate that the surrounding environment experienced a significant mesic episode in the recent past. This mesic climate would have supported a large population of bats, which in turn would have accumulated significant quantities of guano. The subsequent return to the more xeric conditions prevailing today would have caused a drastic reduction in bat population size and effectively ended significant guano accumulation. Fossil guano from Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, U.S.A., suggested that native C3 plants might have been more abundant in Wisconsinan than today. Isotope analyses of old guanos from Bat Cave in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, U. S. A., found a possible implication that C4 photosynthesis might have had contributed a little more to the bats' diet in the cave before the construction of Glen Canyon Dam.


Guano, Jamaica

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