Analysis of Radiocarbon, Stable Isotopes and DNA in Teeth to Facilitate Identification of Unknown Decedents

Kanar Alkass, Hisako Saitoh, Bruce A. Buchholz, Samuel Bernard, Gunilla Holmlund, David R. Senn, Kirsty L. Spalding, Henrik Druid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

The characterization of unidentified bodies or suspected human remains is a frequent and important task for forensic investigators. However, any identification method requires clues to the person's identity to allow for comparisons with missing persons. If such clues are lacking, information about the year of birth, sex and geographic origin of the victim, is particularly helpful to aid in the identification casework and limit the search for possible matches. We present here results of stable isotope analysis of 13C and 18O, and bomb-pulse 14C analyses that can help in the casework. The 14C analysis of enamel provided information of the year of birth with an average absolute error of 1.8±1.3 years. We also found that analysis of enamel and root from the same tooth can be used to determine if the 14C values match the rising or falling part of the bomb-curve. Enamel laydown times can be used to estimate the date of birth of individuals, but here we show that this detour is unnecessary when using a large set of crude 14C data of tooth enamel as a reference. The levels of 13C in tooth enamel were higher in North America than in teeth from Europe and Asia, and Mexican teeth showed even higher levels than those from USA. DNA analysis was performed on 28 teeth, and provided individual-specific profiles in most cases and sex determination in all cases. In conclusion, these analyses can dramatically limit the number of possible matches and hence facilitate person identification work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere69597
JournalPloS one
Volume8
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 29 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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    Alkass, K., Saitoh, H., Buchholz, B. A., Bernard, S., Holmlund, G., Senn, D. R., Spalding, K. L., & Druid, H. (2013). Analysis of Radiocarbon, Stable Isotopes and DNA in Teeth to Facilitate Identification of Unknown Decedents. PloS one, 8(7), [e69597]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0069597