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Research Fellows Directory

Shaena Montanari

Dr Shaena Montanari

Research Fellow


University of Edinburgh

Research summary

With the extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous (66 million years ago), mammals finally had the opportunity to flourish. During the ensuing Paleocene (66-56 million years ago), more than 20 major groups of placental mammals originated and diversified into hundreds of species with a wide variety of body sizes, behaviours, and diets. This remarkable radiation set the stage for the modern dominance of mammals in many ecosystems. Major questions remain, however, about the pace of dietary changes in Paleocene mammals and how dietary evolution may have driven the post-Cretaceous radiation. The fundamental problem is that it is difficult to determine the diets of extinct mammals with much precision. Stable isotopes of carbon and oxygen in fossil tooth enamel are a popular method for reconstructing the diets and environments of extinct species. This project will provide a modern isotopic baseline for identifying the diets of living mammals, which will be useful for a wide range of ecologists and biologists. This baseline will then be used to identify the probable dietary preferences of those early mammals diversifying after the dinosaur extinction, giving insight into one of the great bursts of evolution in the history of life.

Grants awarded

Developing isotope models to understand dietary radiation of mammals after the dinosaur extinction

Scheme: Newton International Fellowships

Dates: Feb 2015 - Feb 2017

Value: £96,942.50

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