Differences between diet and tissue isotope values known as trophic shifts (Δδ13C and Δδ15N) occur during digestion and assimilation of consumed food. Consideration of trophic shifts is essential when using stable isotopes for dietary reconstruction but has received little attention for cervids. Therefore, our purpose was to determine C and N trophic shifts in tissues of captive white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fed corn and alfalfa in known amounts over a 4-month period. Antler has also received limited consideration for use in dietary reconstruction, thus, we analyzed tissue to expose variation among locations along the main beam and between antler components. We collected antler, hair, red blood cells (RBCs), and serum at the end of the feeding trial and analyzed them to determine C (δ13C) and N (δ15N) isotope values. Trophic shifts occurred between diet and all tissues for both isotopes with mean Δδ13C = 1.19 ± 2.23‰ and Δδ15N = 4.93 ± 0.74‰. Antler trophic shifts were greater than those in all other tissues for δ13C, whereas antler and RBCs shared similar trophic enrichment over diet but differed from hair and serum for Δδ15N. Trophic shift values were significantly related to diet in hair and serum for δ13C and antler and RBCs for Δδ15N. Isotope values for antler core and periphery plus antler locations along the main beam did not vary. Antler collagen significantly varied from whole antler for δ13C but not δ15N. Our findings provide mean trophic shift values by tissue that can be used for dietary reconstruction in the study and management of cervids.
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Vol. 72 • No. 7