Strontium isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr) of tooth enamel: a comparison of solution and laser ablation multicollector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry methods. Academic Article uri icon


  • Strontium isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr) in tooth enamel provide a means to investigate migration and landscape use in humans and other animals. Established methods for measuring (87)Sr/(86)Sr in teeth use bulk sampling (5-20 mg) and labor-intensive elemental purification procedures before analysis by either thermal ionization mass spectrometry (TIMS) or multicollector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICP-MS). Another method for measuring 87Sr/86Sr is laser ablation MC-ICP-MS, but concerns have been expressed about its accuracy for measuring tooth enamel. In this study we test the precision and accuracy of the technique by analyzing 30 modern rodent teeth from the Sterkfontein Valley, South Africa by laser ablation MC-ICP-MS and solution MC-ICP-MS. The results show a mean difference in 87Sr/86Sr measured by laser ablation and by solution of 0.0003 +/- 0.0002. This degree of precision is well within the margin necessary for investigating the potential geographic origins of humans or animals in many areas of the world. Because laser ablation is faster, less expensive, and less destructive than bulk sampling solution methods, it opens the possibility for conducting 87Sr/86Sr analyses of intra-tooth samples and small and/or rare specimens such as micromammal and fossil teeth.

published proceedings

  • Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom

altmetric score

  • 9

author list (cited authors)

  • Copeland, S. R., Sponheimer, M., le Roux, P. J., Grimes, V., Lee-Thorp, J. A., de Ruiter, D. J., & Richards, M. P.

citation count

  • 92

complete list of authors

  • Copeland, Sandi R||Sponheimer, Matt||le Roux, Petrus J||Grimes, Vaughan||Lee-Thorp, Julia A||de Ruiter, Darryl J||Richards, Michael P

publication date

  • October 2008