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Studies to understand these food web relationships more completely are commonly performed via stomach content and stable isotope analysis (Winemiller et al.
Childhood diet: a closer examination of the evidence from dental tissues using stable isotope analysis of incremental human dentine.
Stable isotope analysis is an important complementary tool that allows the characterization of trophic pathways at broader spatial and temporal scales.
Among the topics are the nitrogen isotopic analysis of dissolved inorganic and organic nitrogen in soil extracts, the role of meiofauna in deep-sea benthic food webs revealed by carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis, fish scales as a record of atmospheric change, estimating transpiration from the oxygen isotope composition of leaf organic matter, and an improved method for the precise determination of carbon isotopic composition of amino acids.
Stable isotope analysis in animals is a powerful tool in reconstruction of diets (Hobson and Clark 1992), trophic levels (Kelly 2000), feeding habitats (Hobson and Sealy 1991, Cherel et al.
Heavy stable isotope analysis of mid-late Holocene Neolithic burials from Sarawak (Malaysia) identifies groups not apparent in mortuary treatment or inferred subsistence.
A number of field studies are available to the interested reader that demonstrate the powerful application of stable isotope analysis to distinguish between multiple sources of groundwater contamination within a plume by analyzing isotopic compositions from samples taken in the vicinity of suspected source zones.
The application of stable isotope analysis in animal ecology, however elegant and technologically simple, is nevertheless fraught with several heuristic difficulties, primarily stemming from uncertain variation in isotopic discrimination based on many physiological processes.