Estimating the diets of animals using stable isotopes and a comprehensive Bayesian mixing model

John B. Hopkins, Jake M. Ferguson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

171 Scopus citations


Using stable isotope mixing models (SIMMs) as a tool to investigate the foraging ecology of animals is gaining popularity among researchers. As a result, statistical methods are rapidly evolving and numerous models have been produced to estimate the diets of animals-each with their benefits and their limitations. Deciding which SIMM to use is contingent on factors such as the consumer of interest, its food sources, sample size, the familiarity a user has with a particular framework for statistical analysis, or the level of inference the researcher desires to make (e.g., population- or individual-level). In this paper, we provide a review of commonly used SIMM models and describe a comprehensive SIMM that includes all features commonly used in SIMM analysis and two new features. We used data collected in Yosemite National Park to demonstrate IsotopeR's ability to estimate dietary parameters. We then examined the importance of each feature in the model and compared our results to inferences from commonly used SIMMs. IsotopeR's user interface (in R) will provide researchers a user-friendly tool for SIMM analysis. The model is also applicable for use in paleontology, archaeology, and forensic studies as well as estimating pollution inputs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere28478
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 3 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)
  • General


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