Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Stable Isotope Analysis

Technique for reconstruction of past diets by analyzing isotope ratios obtained from bones and tooth enamel. Among elements analyzed are carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. C3 and C4 vegetation consumers have different 13C ratios (13C:12C) in their hard tissues, whereas carnivores have values similar to those of their prey. Mass spectrometry is used to obtain the data upon which the ratios are constructed.

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