A modern baseline for the paired isotopic analysis of skin and bone in terrestrial mammals

Doherty, S. P., Collins, M. J., Harris, A. J. T., Sistiaga, A., Newton, J. and Alexander, M. M. (2022) A modern baseline for the paired isotopic analysis of skin and bone in terrestrial mammals. Royal Society Open Science, 9(1), 211587. (doi: 10.1098/rsos.211587) (PMID:35242352) (PMCID:PMC8753148)

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We present the isotopic discrimination between paired skin and bone collagen from animals of known life history, providing a modern baseline for the interpretation of archaeological isotopic data. At present, the interpretation of inter-tissue variation (Δ(skin–bone)) in mummified remains is based on comparisons with other archaeological material, which have attributed divergence to their contrasting turnover rates, with rapidly remodelling skin collagen incorporating alterations in environmental, cultural and physiological conditions in the months prior to death. While plausible, the lack of baseline data from individuals with known life histories has hindered evaluation of the explanations presented. Our analysis of a range of animals raised under a variety of management practices showed a population-wide trend for skin collagen to be depleted in 13C by –0.7‰ and enriched in 15N by +1.0‰ relative to bone collagen, even in stillborn animals. These results are intriguing and difficult to explain using current knowledge; however, on the basis of the findings reported here, we caution any results which interpret simply on differing turnover rates. We hypothesize that there may be a consistent difference in the routing of dietary protein and lipids between skin and bone, with potentially on-site synthesis of non-essential amino acids using carbon and nitrogen that have been sourced via different biochemical pathways.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This research was supported by NERC Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry Facility grant no. EK259–14/15. S.P.D. was supported by the AHRC White Rose College of Arts and Humanities Doctoral Training Partnership (Award Ref. 1489527). M.J.C is supported by the Danish National Research Foundation-DNRF128.
Keywords:Skin, bone, archaeology, cross-disciplinary sciences, analytical chemistry, stable isotope analysis.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Newton, Dr Jason
Creator Roles:
Newton, J.Formal analysis, Investigation, Writing – review and editing
Authors: Doherty, S. P., Collins, M. J., Harris, A. J. T., Sistiaga, A., Newton, J., and Alexander, M. M.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
Journal Name:Royal Society Open Science
Publisher:The Royal Society
ISSN (Online):2054-5703
Published Online:12 January 2022
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Authors
First Published:First published in Royal Society Open Science 9(1): 211587
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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