vertebrate paleobiology

I use stable isotope geochemistry to understand environmental and biological signatures in extant and extinct vertebrate remains. I conduct modern experimental research on natural variations in carbon and nitrogen isotopes of modern carnivores and omnivores, which to this point are mostly unknown. These values must be understood to properly implement stable isotopes in ecology and conservation of non-herbivorous mammals, and additionally, understand the diets of these animals in the fossil record.

I continue to work with extinct vertebrates through analyzing the carbon, oxygen and nitrogen isotopes of fossil mammals and reptiles. I can track changes in local environment and climate, and relates these abiotic factors to extinction factors. I enjoy using museum collections from around the world for much of this geochemical research. 

Related Manuscripts:

  • Eagle, R.A., Enriquez, M., Grellet-Tinner, G., Pérez-Huerta, A., Hu, D., Tütken, T., Montanari, S., Lloyd, S.J., Ramirez, P., Tripati, A.K., Kohn, M.J., Cerling, T.E., Chiappe, L.M., Eiler, J.M. 2015. Isotopic (13C-18O) ordering in calcium carbonate eggshells reflects body temperatures and suggests differing thermophysiology in two Cretaceous dinosaurs. Nature Communications. doi:10.1038/ncomms9296


  • Passey, B., Hu, H., Ji, H., Montanari, S., Li, S., Henkes, G.A., Levin, N. E., 2014. Triple oxygen isotopes in biogenic and sedimentary carbonates. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 141, 1-25.


  • Montanari, S., Louys, J., Price, G. 2013. Pliocene paleoenvironments of southeastern Queensland, Australia: inferences from stable isotopes of marsupial tooth enamel. PLOS ONE 8(6): e66221. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066221


  • Montanari, S., Higgins, P., Norell, M. 2013. Dinosaur eggshell and tooth enamel geochemistry as an indicator of Mongolian Late Cretaceous paleoenvironments. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 370, 158-166.
Death Row, Gobi Desert, Mongolia

Death Row, Gobi Desert, Mongolia

conservation ecology

I am interested in widely exploring what impact humans have on the survival and diets of uncommon vertebrates. I have worked across all time scales using techniques such as stable isotope analysis to figure out what the remains of animals (bones, eggs, hair, tissue) can tell us about the environments they lived in and the food they ate. I am currently using stable isotopes, in conjunction with next-generation sequencing methods, to look at modern samples collected from wildlife non-invasively (scats and hair) to see what they can tell us about the diets of carnivores, such as big cats. Combining genetic and chemical methods, we can get an extremely clear picture of an organism's dietary ecology. This allows us to be able to compare diets between sympatric species and geographically separated populations. It is vital to understand how apex predators change their diets as their habitats become more degraded so we can predict how food webs will change over time with increasing human ecological interference.

Related Manuscripts:

  • Montanari, S. 2017Discrimination factors of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in meerkat feces. 


  • Montanari, S., Amato, G. 2015. Discrimination factors of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes from diet to hair and scat in captive tigers (Panthera tigris) and snow leopards (Uncia uncia). Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 29 (11), 1062-1068. doi: 10.1002/rcm.7194