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Modern botanical analogue of endangered Yak (Bos mutus) dung from India: Plausible linkage with living and extinct megaherbivores

By Sadhan K. Basumatary, Hukam Singh, H. Gregory McDonald, Swati Tripathi, Anil K. Pokharia

Posted 09 Aug 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/388819

The study present to document the micro and macrobotanical remain on wild Yak dung to understand the diet, habitat, and ecology in relation to determining possible ecological relationships with extant and extinct megaherbivores. Grasses are the primary diet of the yak as indicated by the abundance of grass pollen and phytoliths, though it is obvious. The other associates non-arboreal and arboreal taxa namely, Cyperacaeae, Rosaceae, Chenopodiaceae, Artemisia, Prunus, and Rhododendron are also important dietary plants for their survival. The observation of plant macrobotanical remains especially the vegetative part and seed of the grasses and Cyperaceae also indicates good agreement with the palynodata. The documented micro and macrobotanical data is indicative of both Alpine meadow and steppe vegetation under cold and dry climate which exactly reflected the current vegetation composition and climate in the region. The recovery of Botryococcus, Arcella, and diatom was marked though in trace values and suggestive of the perennial water system in the region which incorporated through the ingestion of water. Energy dispersive spectroscopy analysis marked that the element contained in dung samples has variation in relation to the summer and winter which might be the availability of the food plants and vegetation. This generated multiproxy data serves as a strong supplementary data for modern pollen and vegetation relationship based on surface soil samples in the region. The recorded multiproxy data could be useful to interpret the coprolites of herbivorous fauna in relation to the palaeodietary and paleoecology in the region and to correlate with other mega herbivores in a global context.

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