Hellawell, J & Nicholas, C. J., Acid Treatment effects on the stable isotopic signature of fossils, Palaeontology, 55, 1, 2012, 1 - 10
Palaeontology; 55; 1;
Prior to geochemical analyses, fossil bones and teeth are often extracted from any surrounding lithified sediments using chemical techniques such as immersion in acid. As stable isotope analysis becomes more commonplace in palaeoecological investigations, it is important to consider what effects these chemical preparation techniques may have on any subsequent isotopic data and to constrain these effects as quantitatively as possible. This study aims to elucidate these effects, as it is vital that variability in a data set should not be introduced as a result of protocols used during sample preparation; in addition, it defines the most effective and viable method of carbonate removal for processing bulk fossil samples without causing alteration of their stable isotopic signatures. Various strengths of two weak acids commonly used during palaeontological preparation were tested to evaluate their effects on the δ15N and δ13Corg isotopic signatures of the vertebrae of a large Eocene fossil fish. Changes in the isotopic values occurred over time regardless of which acid was used, each causing a variable response in both δ15N and δ13Corg isotopic values. Without careful monitoring of the acidification process in a controlled environment, any resulting data could therefore confound interpretation. Based on these experiments, it is recommended that 2 m acetic acid be used for the pretreatment of fossils prior to the acquisition of N and C isotope data where carbonate removal is necessary.
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