Stable isotope evidence for impala Aepyceros melampus diets at Akagera National Park, Rwanda

Sandi R. Copeland, Matt Sponheimer, Clive A. Spinage, Julia A. Lee-Thorp, Daryl Codron, Kaye Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Stable isotope analysis of tooth enamel was used to investigate the relative proportions of grass and browse in seasonal and overall diets of impala Aepyceros melampus at Akagera National Park, Rwanda. Bulk enamel samples suggest that on average, impala ate c. 86% C4 grass year-round, far more than in most previously studied impala populations across Africa. Intra-tooth samples show that seasonal changes in the proportion of C 4 grass versus C3 browse are minimal (c. 10%), the diet being dominated by C4 grass year-round in contrast to other impala populations that consume ≥50% browse during the dry season. Intra-tooth oxygen isotope values track carbon isotope changes to a moderate degree, but are not patterned clearly enough to permit identification of wet versus dry seasons. As other studies have shown that impala select high-protein diets, the foraging behaviour at Akagera is probably because of the availability of palatable grass for much of the year in the edaphic grasslands around the lacustrine environments of the eastern portions of Akagera National Park.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)490-501
Number of pages12
JournalAfrican Journal of Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Carbon-13
  • Diet
  • Impala
  • Intra-tooth
  • Oxygen-18
  • Stable isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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