Reconstructing faunal migrations using intra-tooth sampling and strontium and oxygen isotope analyses: a case study of modern caribou (Rangifer tarandus granti)

Kate Britton, Vaughan Grimes, James Dau, Michael P Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Citations (Scopus)


Isotopic analyses of incrementally developed dental tissues can be used to reveal patterns of movement and diet in animals. However, the suitability of these methods for the reconstruction of herd movements has not yet been demonstrated. Inter-individual behavioural and isotopic variability at the herd scale, and the implications for archaeological and palaeocological applications, can only be demonstrated through the testing of modern animals. In this pilot study, dual-element isotopic profiles were created from incrementally developed dental tissues of five individuals selected from a modern herd of migratory Alaskan caribou (Rangifer tarandus granti). Enamel from second and third molars from the individuals was sequentially sampled in order to reconstruct time-series isotopic profiles. Variation in the strontium (Sr-87/Sr-86) and oxygen (delta O-18(CARB)) isotope ratios of sequentially sampled enamel were compared to documented herd movement patterns and local geological and environmental conditions. Four individuals displayed the same general trends, although absolute isotopic values varied. One individual displays a very different trend and may represent a behavioural outlier or an immigrant from a semi-domesticated reindeer herd. The implications of this study to herd movement reconstruction in the past are discussed. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1163-1172
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2009


  • stable isotope analysis
  • strontium
  • oxygen
  • carbonate
  • enamel
  • sequential-sampling
  • rangifer
  • migration

Cite this