A Comparative Analysis of Fecal Sterol Distribution to Investigate the Disappearance of Mastodon at the Page-Ladson Sinkhole
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The Page-Ladson sinkhole in Florida is a historic site which provides rich stratified deposits of late Pleistocene specimens and artifacts. Evidence from the site indicates coexistence of the prehistoric species of mastodon M. americanum and pre-Clovis humans. However, the relationship between the two species is not yet clear, and the disappearance of mastodons in the early Holocene is still being studied. A way to understand the relationship between species over time is to analyze their chemical remains preserved in sediments, and the comparative analysis of fecal sterol/steroid-derived compounds might provide new evidence regarding the extirpation of mastodons over time. In this study, we retrieved fecal samples from different mammals and sediments from the Page-Ladson sinkhole and extracted lipid fractions for GC/MS analysis. The lipid extract analysis revealed a number of sterol and steroid derived compounds, many of which successfully matched with the Page-Ladson compounds. Further interpretation can reveal methods for detecting past ranges of different mammalian species.