UNM Assistant Professor of Anthropology Sherry V. Nelson has a new research paper that examines carbon and oxygen stable isotopes in the tooth enamel of animals from Kibale National Park to reconstruct the environments of fossil apes and early humans. The paper, “Chimpanzee fauna isotopes provide new interpretations of fossil ape and hominin ecologies,” is available online in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. Nelson found that oxygen isotopes could distinguish animals that fed on the ground from those that fed in the canopy. For animals that fed in the canopy, they could distinguish low-quality leaf diets from high-quality fruit diets. Taken together with carbon isotopic data, which provide a measure of how open a habitat an animal lived in, these findings have important implications for reconstructing the environments of extinct apes and early hominins like Ardipithecus. Nelson relied on skeletal remains collected over many years by the Kibale Chimpanzee Project and the Ngogo Chimpanzee Project, demonstrating the importance of long-term research sites. See Dr. Nelson discuss her findings in the video below.