The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

A new method of dentine microsampling of deciduous teeth for stable isotope analysis


Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

Serial sampling of the dentine for carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis can be used to reconstruct individuals’ changing diets and dietary habits of populations. Previous serial studies have used homogenized samples that give broad results. This study presents a new microsampling technique for use with stable isotope analysis that reconstructs diet associated with specific juvenile life stages: fetal life, breastfeeding, and weaning.

A sample of 23 modern deciduous teeth was collected in collaboration with the Department of Pediatric Dentistry, University of Alberta. The teeth were longitudinally sectioned. One half of each longitudinally cut tooth was examined histologically to find the level of the neonatal line and the other half sampled for isotopic analysis. Microsamples of dentine were collected occlusal to the neonatal line, directly apical to the neonatal line, and from the growing edge of the tooth. Collagen was extracted from the samples using standard procedures modified for small samples.

Preliminary results of the stable isotope analysis show δ15N shifts across the neonatal line of some teeth that are consistent with the transition from fetal life to breastfeeding. Current work focuses on adjusting the sampling protocol to consistently provide microsamples above the threshold weight needed for accurate simultaneous carbon and nitrogen analysis. Work is also being done to apply the method to archaeological remains

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