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Publication Detail
Red deer bone and antler collagen are not isotopically equivalent in carbon and nitrogen.
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
  • Authors:
    Stevens RE, O'Connell TC
  • Publication date:
  • Pagination:
    1969, 1984
  • Journal:
    Rapid communications in mass spectrometry : RCM
  • Volume:
  • Issue:
  • Medium:
  • Print ISSN:
  • Language:
  • Addresses:
    McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3ER, UK.
Bone and antler collagen δ(13) C and δ(15) N values are often assumed to be equivalent when measured in palaeodietary, palaeoclimate and palaeocological studies. Although compositionally similar, bone grows slowly and is remodelled whereas antler growth is rapid and remodelling does not occur. These different patterns of growth could result in isotopic difference within antler and between the two tissue types. Here we test whether red deer (Cervus elaphus) bone and antler δ(13) C and δ(15) N values are equivalent, and whether intra-antler isotopic values are uniform.Bone and antler were isotopically analysed from six stags that lived in a temperate maritime climate on the Isle of Rum, Scotland. Multiple antlers from different years were sampled per individual, together with a single bone sample per individual. Up to 12 samples were taken along the length of each antler (total of 25 antlers, 259 samples) so that a chronological record of the isotopic composition during antler growth could be obtained. Collagen was extracted and its δ(13) C and δ(15) N values were measured by continuous-flow isotope ratio mass spectrometry.Intra-antler collagen isotope signatures vary, and show that not all antlers from an individual or a growth year are equivalent in carbon and nitrogen isotopic ratios. δ(15) N values typically increase with distance along antler length, but no overall trend is observed in δ(13) C values. An isotopic offset is visible between bone and antler, with bone δ(13) C and δ(15) N values being higher in most cases.Bone and antler collagen δ(13) C and δ(15) N values are not isotopically equivalent and are therefore not directly comparable in palaeodietary, palaeoclimate and palaeocological studies. Bone and antler collagen isotopic differences probably relate to differential metabolic processes during the formation of the two tissues. Intra- and inter-antler isotopic variations probably reflect the isotopic composition of an individual's diet rather than physiological parameters, and may have the potential to provide high-resolution individual-specific information in modern and ancient cervid populations. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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