Zinc isotope ratios as indicators of diet and trophic level in arctic marine mammals

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Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios of bone collagen are an established method for dietary reconstruction, but this method is limited by the protein preservation. Zinc (Zn) is found in bioapatite and the isotopic compositions of this element constitute a very promising dietary indicator. The extent of fractionation of Zn isotopes in marine environments, however, remains unknown. We report here on the measurement of zinc, carbon and nitrogen isotopes in 47 marine mammals from the archaeological site of Arvik in the Canadian Arctic. We undertook this study to test and demonstrate the utility of Zn isotopes in recent mammal bone minerals as a dietary indicator by comparing them to other isotopic dietary tracers. We found a correlation between δ66Zn values and trophic level for most species, with the exception of walruses, which may be caused by their large seasonal movements. δ6Zn values can therefore be used as a dietary indicator in marine ecosystems for both modern and recent mammals.




Jaouen, K., Szpak, P., & Richards, M. P. (2016). Zinc isotope ratios as indicators of diet and trophic level in arctic marine mammals. PLoS ONE, 11(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152299

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