Cold water maceration of extant bovid mandibles: implications for elemental composition, stable isotopic analysis and timing of tooth eruptions

Haselhorst, Paul L.
The dentition and crypts of extant bovid mandibles can be used for investigations into palaeoclimates, palaeoecology and evolution thru elemental concentrations, stable isotopic analysis and tooth eruption timing. The utilization of cold maceration (removal of flesh from bone) aides in the removal of dentition and prepares the mandible for sectioning or radiography. Other maceration techniques, hot water ("cooking") and "bug box" (beetles and larvae in the genus Dermestes feed on the flesh), work extremely well, however the hot water will reset the oxygen isotopes values and the "bug box" is not practical for all researchers. For the cold water maceration technique the fleshed mandibles were place in a five gallon bucket, cover with a solution consisting of tap water at approximately 25ºC and two tablespoons of enzyme (alconox powder) to aide with degreasing. The bucket was covered with a plastic lid to prevent evaporation and for the reduction of foul odors. Three sets of mandibles from approximately one year old extant bovid were utilized and were macerated using three different parameters: 1) water/enzyme solution changed every two days with defleshing of mandible by hand occurring during each solution change; 2) water/enzyme solution changed daily and no defleshing during water/enzyme solution change; 3) no changing water/enzyme solution and no defleshing. The results indicated that parameter three achieved the fastest cold maceration time at only eight days. Parameters one and two were longer with twenty-six days and fifteen days respectively. However, the removal of blood vessels and fat from the mandibular cavity varied from for all three sets of mandibles and the removal proved more difficult dependent upon the crypt contained permanent dentition development and not of the time parameters.
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