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Isotope fingerprints in elephant bone and ivory


THE isotopic composition of carbon and nitrogen as well as of strontium in animal bone is related to the environment in which the animal lived1–6. It can be assumed that this is also the case for lead isotopes. In theory, therefore, we have a way of pinpointing the origin of elephant ivory, which may be of value in conservation. Here we report that by analysing the isotope ratios of these elements, a clear distinction between several different populations of the African elephant can be made.

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Vogel, J., Eglington, B. & Auret, J. Isotope fingerprints in elephant bone and ivory. Nature 346, 747–749 (1990).

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