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Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry

Spatial distributions of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur isotope ratios in human hair across the central United States

Authors

  • Luciano O. Valenzuela,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biology, University of Utah, 257 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
    • Department of Biology, University of Utah, 257 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.
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  • Lesley A. Chesson,

    1. Department of Biology, University of Utah, 257 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
    2. IsoForensics Inc., 423 Wakara Way, Suite 205, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, USA
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  • Shannon P. O'Grady,

    1. Department of Biology, University of Utah, 257 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
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  • Thure E. Cerling,

    1. Department of Biology, University of Utah, 257 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
    2. IsoForensics Inc., 423 Wakara Way, Suite 205, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, USA
    3. Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah, 135 South 1460 East; Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
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  • James R. Ehleringer

    1. Department of Biology, University of Utah, 257 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
    2. IsoForensics Inc., 423 Wakara Way, Suite 205, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, USA
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Abstract

We present data on the carbon (δ13C), nitrogen (δ15N) and sulfur (δ34S) isotope ratios of human hair collected in the central portions of the USA. These elements are incorporated into hair from the diet and thus provide a record of dietary inputs that may also document geospatial patterns. We detected regional differences in hair δ34S values across the USA, with the lowest values in the northern Great Plains and increasing values towards the east, west and south. In contrast, no statistically significant patterns were detected in the spatial variation of human hair δ13C and δ15N values. Using δ34S values and a Geographic Information System approach, we created a map (‘sulfur isoscape’). The accuracy of the map was tested using hair samples not included in its generation. We conclude that sulfur isotope analysis may represent a new tool to investigate the movements and/or region-of-origin of humans. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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