Calcium isotopes offer clues on resource partitioning among cretaceous predatory dinosaurs

A. Hassler, J.E. Martin* (Corresponding Author), R. Amiot, T. Tacail, F.A. Godet, R. Allain, V. Balter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Large predators are overabundant in mid-Cretaceous continental dinosaur assemblages of North Africa. Such unbalanced ecosystem structure involves, among predatory dinosaurs, typical abelisaurid or carcharodontosaurid theropods co-occurring with long-snouted spinosaurids of debated ecology. Here, we report calcium (Ca) isotope values from tooth enamel (expressed as δ44/42Ca) to investigate resource partitioning in mid-Cretaceous assemblages from Niger (Gadoufaoua) and Morocco (Kem Kem Beds). In both assemblages, spinosaurids display a distinct isotopic signature, the most negative in our dataset. This distinct taxonomic clustering in Ca isotope values observed between spinosaurids and other predators provides unambiguous evidence for niche partitioning at the top of the trophic chains: spinosaurids foraged on aquatic environments while abelisaurid and carcharodontosaurid theropods relied almost exclusively on terrestrial resources.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2018019
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Early online date11 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding: Funding for this work was provided by the LABEX Lyon Institute of Origins (ANR-10-LABX-0066) of the Université de Lyon for financial support within the programme ‘Investissements d'Avenir’ (ANR-11-IDEX-0007) of the French government operated by the National Research Agency (ANR). Consumables used in the clean laboratory for this study were partly paid for by J.E.M.'s DIUNIS project (‘Dietary Inferences Using Novel Isotope System’—TelluS INSU 2017—action INTERRVIE). Analyses and sample preparations were partly funded by the Jurassic Foundation through the Jurassic Foundation Grant Program.

The authors are grateful to the LABEX Lyon Institute of Origins, the TelluS INSU 2017-action INTERRVIE, and the Jurrasic Foundation for having funded this project. We thank G. Clément for allowing us to sample fossil fishes from Gadoufaoua in the collections of MNHN (Paris). For technical assistance on spectrometers, we thank E. Albalat and P. Telouk. We thank the two anonymous referees for their insightful comments on the manuscript. The animal outlines in figures 3 and 4 were retrieved from with some modifications, we thus thank their authors: Duane Raver, Todd Marshall, Nobu Tamura, Martin Kevil, Milton Tan, Scott Hartman, FunkMonk, Smokeybjb, Zimices, Heinrich Harder and T. Michael Keesey, for helping us to illustrate our study by having transferred their work to the public domain or under a creative commons licence.

Data Availability Statement

Electronic supplementary material is available online at


  • ecology
  • Cretaceous terrestrial ecosystems
  • dinosaurs
  • calcium isotopes
  • spinosaurs
  • palaeodiet


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