A new method of analysis of the teeth allowed to determine the diet of fossil mammals. An analysis of zinc isotopes from tooth enamel will reliably establish what ancient people and animals ate, according to a study by scientists from Johannes Gutenberg University, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Zinc enters the body with food and is stored as the main trace element in bioapatite, the mineral phase of tooth enamel. This element is more likely to remain in the body for extended periods of time than the nitrogen associated with collagen.

The presence of zinc in a certain ratio also allows us to establish whether the animal was a herbivore or carnivore. Thus, zinc isotopes can serve as a new tool for studying the diet of fossil humans and other mammals.

Researchers have used a new method to study the fossils found in Tam Hey Marklo Cave in northeastern Laos. The study showed that the diet of the mammals to which the remains belong was almost the same as the diet of modern representatives of the same species.

The discovery will allow not only to determine the diet of mammals and ancient people with high accuracy, but also expand the time frame during which the determination of the diet will become possible, up to 100 thousand years.