Faculty Advisor

Marian Hamilton

Document Type


Publication Date



Diet is a critical component of the ecology of extant and extinct animals. Many dietary reconstructions involve destruction of the sample. Portable X-Ray fluorescence (pXRF), however, is a non-destructive method of gathering elemental data from skeletal remains, plants, or otherwise. This is very important for research in biological anthropology and diet reconstructions because it leaves the sample intact. This is essential because there might only be a few specimens. There has been a gap in dietary reconstructions using non-destructive methods and especially pXRF. This method is portable, cheaper, and as accurate as destructive methods and should therefore be implemented more into research of this nature. This research applies this method to determine a diet of either folivore (leaf-eater) or frugivore (fruit-eater) in a sample of six primate skulls. By looking at strontium (Sr) and calcium (Ca) ratios within the teeth of these primates, it is possible to group them into these diet preferences as both elements get absorbed by the body because they are anatomically similar. It is known that leaves have higher Sr/Ca ratios than fruits. Based on this, it is likely that primates with a low reading of Sr/Ca ratios will fall into the frugivore diet range, whereas high Sr/Ca ratios will indicate a more folivorous diet preference. A comparison to a mesowear study on the same primates will also be done as this is an observational method which looks at the broad structures and wear of teeth to estimate diet. Conducting a diet reconstruction using pXRF will show the wide uses of this method and that non-destructive methods can be applied to this type of research.


This presentation is a finalist for the Undergraduate Natural and Health Sciences Research Excellence Award.