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A case study of ivory species identification using a combination of morphological, gemmological and genetic methods


Cartier, Laurent E; Krzemnicki, Michael S; Gysi, Mario; Lendvay, Bertalan; Morf, Nadja V (2020). A case study of ivory species identification using a combination of morphological, gemmological and genetic methods. The Journal of Gemmology, 37(3):282-297.

Abstract

Twenty-one items sold as mammoth ivory in China were submitted to the Zurich Institute of Forensic Medicine (University of Zurich, Switzerland) and SSEF for testing. The aim of this case study was to identify these samples using macroscopic morphological diagnostics, micro-scopic examination, FTIR spectroscopy, trace-element analysis and additional minimally destructive DNA analysis (of approximately 100 mg of powder) of a region of the cytochrome b gene to assign taxonomic identification. Morphological features (Schreger angles) shown by five of the samples were characteristic of extinct Proboscideans (mammoths), and one other specimen displayed unnatural layering that identified it as an ivory imitation. FTIR spectroscopy further showed the imitation was an artificial resin, while infrared spectra of the other samples displayed overlapping features characteristic of carbonated hydroxyapatite (i.e. ivory or bone). Like FTIR spectroscopy, trace-element chemistry cannot be used to separate species. DNA analysis could in some cases differentiate extinct (mammoth) from extant (African and Asian elephant) Proboscidean species, and also identi-fied one specimen as cattle bone. Combining morphological, gemmological and genetic approaches can increase the amount of evidence available to identify the species origin of ivory.

Abstract

Twenty-one items sold as mammoth ivory in China were submitted to the Zurich Institute of Forensic Medicine (University of Zurich, Switzerland) and SSEF for testing. The aim of this case study was to identify these samples using macroscopic morphological diagnostics, micro-scopic examination, FTIR spectroscopy, trace-element analysis and additional minimally destructive DNA analysis (of approximately 100 mg of powder) of a region of the cytochrome b gene to assign taxonomic identification. Morphological features (Schreger angles) shown by five of the samples were characteristic of extinct Proboscideans (mammoths), and one other specimen displayed unnatural layering that identified it as an ivory imitation. FTIR spectroscopy further showed the imitation was an artificial resin, while infrared spectra of the other samples displayed overlapping features characteristic of carbonated hydroxyapatite (i.e. ivory or bone). Like FTIR spectroscopy, trace-element chemistry cannot be used to separate species. DNA analysis could in some cases differentiate extinct (mammoth) from extant (African and Asian elephant) Proboscidean species, and also identi-fied one specimen as cattle bone. Combining morphological, gemmological and genetic approaches can increase the amount of evidence available to identify the species origin of ivory.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Legal Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:340 Law
610 Medicine & health
510 Mathematics
Uncontrolled Keywords:Geochemistry and Petrology
Language:English
Date:19 September 2020
Deposited On:21 Dec 2020 15:27
Last Modified:21 Dec 2020 15:27
Publisher:Gemmological Association of Great Britain
ISSN:2632-1718
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.15506/jog.2020.37.3.282

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