Exploring the ecology and the environments of the past
Regarding fossils, one of the first questions to be addressed is the feeding ecology of the animal (see Figure): what did it feed on and what was its role in the ecosystem? As direct observations are impossible, proxies are necessary to reconstruct the ecology of extinct species. In this context, the study of extant species mostly serves as a baseline for dietary reconstruction in fossil species. Grazing species have higher values of anistropy than browsers. Besides the range of complexity is high for browsers.
For example, the paleocommunity of antelopes at the 8- million year old site of Nikiti-2, northern Greece is dominated by grazers or mixed feeders. Among antelopes, Nisidorcas was apparently the most engaged in grazing, Gazella was a mixed feeder, and Miotragocerus was the closest to the browser end of the spectrum (Merceron et al., 2016).
Figure. When fossil species from Nikiti-2 (G: Gazella; M: Miotragocerus; N: Nisidorcas) are inserted into a model based on modern species of antelopes clustered in diet categories (Grazers, Mixed Feeders and Browsers).