Does natural weathering change the stable isotope composition ( 2H, 13C, 15N, 18O and 34S) of cattle hair?

Karl Auerswald, Andreas Rossmann, Rudi Schäufele, Michael Schwertl, Frank J. Monahan, Hans Schnyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Stable isotope analysis of hair has found applications in many fields of science because it provides a temporally resolved, fairly stable isotopic archive of mammalian individuals. We investigated whether this hair archive is modified by natural weathering while attached to a living animal. We analyzed the tail switch hairs of one suckler cow, sampled seven times over a period of four annual summer pasture-winter stall feeding cycles. We compared relative isotope ratios (δ2H, δ13C, δ15N, δ18O and δ34S) of sections of hair that grew simultaneously but were exposed to natural weathering conditions over different periods of time. Natural wear caused a loss of mass of approx. 0.13% day-1, with no apparent effect of environmental conditions. Changes in δ2H, δ13C, δ15N and δ18O were below the detection limit, indicating that hair is a reliable archive for the isotopes of these elements. In contrast, δ34S values increased during the grazing period by about 1%, with exposure to UVradiation appearing to have a major influence on this result. The δ34S values decreased during the subsequent stall period, probably due to abrasion. Seasonal variation in δ34S may indicate alternating environments that differ in their weathering conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3741-3748
Number of pages8
JournalRapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry
Issue number24
StatePublished - 30 Dec 2011


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