Journal of Quaternary Science
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We investigated the application of stable isotope analysis of proboscidean remains (collagen in bone/dentin/cementum and structural carbonate in enamel bioapatite) for genus-level identification of isolated specimens, assessment of geographic origins, and testing for nutritional stress. Mammoths (Mammuthus sp.) tended to have higher δ15Ncol and lower δ13Ccol than mastodons (Mammut americanum), but differences were not significant in every location. Determining the genus of isolated specimens may be possible for locations and time periods with good isotopic baselines, but environmental changes can confound interpretations. For example, an Alberta proboscidean with a δ15Ncol of +1.4‰ (characteristic of mastodons) ultimately proved to be a mammoth. Its surprisingly low nitrogen isotope composition is attributable to the recently deglaciated environment it inhabited. We provided a baseline for isotopic assessment of geographic origins of isolated proboscideans in Western Canada. Bioapatite δ13Csc and δ18Osc can be used to distinguish specimens from Alberta, Klondike, Old Crow, Herschel Island, and further south (e.g., Arizona, Great Lakes). Finally, we found that an Alberta mammoth with morphological evidence of nutritional stress experienced a change in diet, environment, or physiology prior to death, but its isotopic compositions did not suggest a link to hypothesized starvation (catabolism of proteins or reliance on lipids).