• diagenesis;
  • bone;
  • enamel;
  • strontium;
  • Sr-87/Sr-86;
  • fossils;
  • pinnipeds


Analyses of the strontium isotope ratio (87Sr/86Sr) of vertebrate fossils can provide information about palaeobiological attributes such as habitat use and movement patterns. Diagenetic contaminants can alter the 87Sr/86Sr ratio of fossils, however, complicating palaeobiological interpretations. Several pretreatment protocols have been developed to separate diagenetic contaminants from biogenic Sr. While these methods can remove some diagenetic Sr, it has not been shown that any technique removes all contamination. The extent to which pretreatment removes diagenetic Sr can be quantified through analysis of the 87Sr/86Sr ratios of fossil marine mammal bones and teeth buried in sediments with non-marine diagenetic 87Sr/86Sr signatures. To do this, we examined Holocene seals recovered from archaeological sites in Greenland and California, as well as a Miocene whale from Maryland. Our results demonstrate that although pretreatment eliminated some contaminants from bone, a large percentage (up to 80%) of diagenetic Sr remained after treatment. In contrast, pretreatment does appear to remove nearly all (≥∼95%) diagenetic Sr from tooth enamel. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.