Seasonal cyclicity in trace elements and stable isotopes of modern horse enamel

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The study of stable isotopes in fossil bioapatite has yielded useful results and has shown that bioapatites are able to faithfully record paleo-environmental and paleo-climatic parameters from archeological to geological timescales. In an effort to establish new proxies for the study of bioapatites, intra-tooth records of enamel carbonate stable isotope ratios from modern horses are compared with trace element profiles measured using laboratory micro X-Ray Fluorescence scanning. Using known patterns of tooth eruption and the relationship between stable oxygen isotopes and local temperature seasonality, an age model is constructed that links records from six cheek upper right teeth from the second premolar to the third molar. When plotted on this age model, the trace element ratios from horse tooth enamel show a seasonal pattern with a small shift in phase compared to stable oxygen isotope ratios. While stable oxygen and carbon isotopes in tooth enamel are forced respectively by the state of the hydrological cycle and the animal’s diet, we argue that the seasonal signal in trace elements reflects seasonal changes in dust intake and diet of the animal. The latter explanation is in agreement with seasonal changes observed in carbon isotopes of the same teeth. This external forcing of trace element composition in mammal tooth enamel implies that trace element ratios may be used as proxies for seasonal changes in paleo-environment and paleo-diet.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0166678
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages29
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2016


  • trace elements
  • Stable isotope
  • Enamel
  • Bioapatite
  • Horses
  • Diet
  • paleoenvironement
  • Seasonality


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