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Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Surviving Biodiversity Loss in the Amazon

You are what you eat, right down to the isotope ratios in your food
April 1, 2014
Surviving Biodiversity Loss in the Amazon

A Pipra licauda manakin in Ecuador’s Yasuni Biosphere Reserve

Isotopes in manakin birds suggest a diverse enough diet to face what may be coming

In the Amazon jungle, a collection of bird species called manakins could become threatened if its major food sources disappear in response to the changing environment. Because these birds perform important services for the ecosystem as a whole, including dispersing plant seeds, their loss could trigger a cascade of further biodiversity losses. So Los Alamos researchers found a way to measure the isotope ratios in manakin feathers and connect the ratios to those in the seeds, berries, and insects the manakins eat. Fortunately for the food chain, it appears that they consume enough insects to get by in the event that their plant-based foodstuffs become scarce.

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