Age effects and the influence of varying proportions of terrestrial and marine dietary protein on the stable nitrogen-isotope compositions of pig bone collagen and soft tissues from a controlled feeding experiment

Emily C Webb, Alan Stewart, Bevis G Miller, John F Tarlton, Richard P Evershed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

10 Citations (Scopus)
302 Downloads (Pure)


In this study, femoral collagen, rib collagen, femoral muscle, loin muscle and liver samples from sows, piglets and pigs raised in a controlled feeding study are analysed for their nitrogen-isotope compositions. The objectives of this research are to investigate the relationship between tissue and dietary δ15N values across age categories under controlled feeding and housing conditions, and to assess tissue 15N-enrichment relative to diet when pigs of different ages are consuming terrestrial, marine, or mixed terrestrial-marine dietary protein. There is a strong linear relationship between all tissue δ15N values and the amount of marine protein consumed, but the δ15N values do not become consistently elevated for all individuals consuming the same diet until at least 25% of the dietary protein source is marine-derived. Adolescent pigs also had consistently lower δ15N values than either piglets or sows consuming the same diet for collagen and muscle, which is most likely caused by the differences in growth rate among the age categories. Further, for some tissues and animals, a linear relationship between the amount of marine protein consumed and the Δ15NTissue – Whole Diet offset was also observed. We suggest that this variability results from both age-associated growth rates and differential incorporation of amino acids from terrestrial and marine dietary protein into rapidly growing tissue.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-66
Number of pages13
JournalScience and Technology of Archaeological Research
Issue number1
Early online date11 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2016



  • nitrogen isotopes
  • nitrogen balance
  • palaeodietary reconstruction
  • trophic levels
  • isotopic discrimination

Cite this