Comparative Subtidal and Supratidal Taphonomic Changes in the Elemental Components of Marine Vertebrate Bones using Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy and Principle Component Analysis: Ecological and Forensic Applications

Individuals and agencies of multiple disciplines have evolved interests which result in the studies and research of marine mammals as well as other protected marine dwellers such as sea turtles. Aside from wildlife conservation, a logarithmic increase in interest to these protected animals have been the side effect of trade for profit to fund activities targeted at human populations as acts of terror. Wildlife trade and trafficking have aided terrorist groups in the funding of ammunition and weapons of mass destruction. This study focuses on observations made by analysts while examining remains of protected animals that may be involved in trade or trafficking on the black market. Recent observations have found that marine organisms like the sea turtle and porpoise display signs of advanced taphonomy and even premature fossilization following decomposition. In this study, skeletal remains from submerged marine vertebrates including a porpoise, seal, sea turtle, and a cow control were sampled in order to determine a plausible explanation for these observations. The specimens were necropsied prior to submersion, and the bones of each vertebrate were segregated with  respect to species. Periodic samplings took place throughout the course of this study. Using the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), the bone specimens were examined for topographic changes and analyzed for elemental composition. Among the different elemental aspects of bone composition, a list of elements was compiled and monitored for change throughout the course of this study.

Caitlyn B McElreath – 2018