The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Isotopic Measures of Intra-Individual Variation in Fetal Bone Collagen and Apatite


1Department of Anthropology, University of Central Florida, 2School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, 3Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University, 4National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

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Stable isotope analysis has been used to reconstruct infant feeding practices, and to evaluate developmental metabolic conditions. Several studies have documented isotopic changes during growth of tissues with relatively fast accretion rates, however intra-individual isotopic variation within these tissues has not been fully addressed. To evaluate intra-individual variation, 40 bone samples were collected from a well-preserved fetal individual (37 weeks gestation) from the Kellis 2 Cemetery (c. 100-360 AD), Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt. Samples were selected based on known time-sensitive fetal development of primary and secondary ossification centers. Results from analyses of bone collagen (n = 22) indicate intra-individual variation greater than 1.2‰ for δ13C and 2.7‰ for δ15N. Results for bone carbonate (n = 18) indicate variation greater than 1.4‰ for δ13C. There is significant variation in δ15N ratios between areas of bone that have undergone recent rapid growth, versus bones with more established ossification. These variations may represent intramembranous versus endochondral ossification within the individual, emphasizing that timing of fetal bone growth should be taken into account when selecting samples. This also suggests that increased demands for energy and protein placed on the mother during pregnancy may be evaluated using high-resolution techniques on fetal remains.

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