Almost 150 years after the first identification of Neandertal skeletal material, the cognitive and symbolic abilities of these populations remain a subject of intense debate. We present 99 new Neandertal remains from the Troisième caverne of Goyet (Belgium) dated to 40,500-45,500 calBP. The remains were identified through a multidisciplinary study that combines morphometrics, taphonomy, stable isotopes, radiocarbon dating and genetic analyses. The Goyet Neandertal bones show distinctive anthropogenic modifications, which provides clear evidence for butchery activities as well as four bones having been used for retouching stone tools. In addition to being the first site to have yielded multiple Neandertal bones used as retouchers, Goyet not only provides the first unambiguous evidence of Neandertal cannibalism in Northern Europe, but also highlights considerable diversity in mortuary behaviour among the region’s late Neandertal population in the period immediately preceding their disappearance.
Transmutation of long-lived fission products (LLFPs: (79)Se, (93)Zr, (99)Tc, (107)Pd, (129)I, and (135)Cs) into short-lived or non-radioactive nuclides by fast neutron spectrum reactors without isotope separation has been proposed as a solution to the problem of radioactive wastes disposal. Despite investigation of many methods, such transmutation remains technologically difficult. To establish an effective and efficient transmutation system, we propose a novel neutron moderator material, yttrium deuteride (YD2), to soften the neutron spectrum leaking from the reactor core. Neutron energy spectra and effective half-lives of LLFPs, transmutation rates, and support ratios were evaluated with the continuous-energy Monte Carlo code MVP-II/MVP-BURN and the JENDL-4.0 cross section library. With the YD2 moderator in the radial blanket and shield regions, effective half-lives drastically decreased from 106 to 102 years and the support ratios reached 1.0 for all six LLFPs. This successful development and implementation of a transmutation system for LLFPs without isotope separation contributes to a the ability of fast spectrum reactors to reduce radioactive waste by consuming their own LLFPs.
The contamination of Japan after the Fukushima accident has been investigated mainly for volatile fission products, but only sparsely for actinides such as plutonium. Only small releases of actinides were estimated in Fukushima. Plutonium is still omnipresent in the environment from previous atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. We investigated soil and plants sampled at different hot spots in Japan, searching for reactor-borne plutonium using its isotopic ratio (240)Pu/(239)Pu. By using accelerator mass spectrometry, we clearly demonstrated the release of Pu from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant: While most samples contained only the radionuclide signature of fallout plutonium, there is at least one vegetation sample whose isotope ratio (0.381 ± 0.046) evidences that the Pu originates from a nuclear reactor ((239+240)Pu activity concentration 0.49 Bq/kg). Plutonium content and isotope ratios differ considerably even for very close sampling locations, e.g. the soil and the plants growing on it. This strong localization indicates a particulate Pu release, which is of high radiological risk if incorporated.
We have examined the remains of a Pilgrim burial from St Mary Magdalen, Winchester. The individual was a young adult male, aged around 18-25 years at the time of death. Radiocarbon dating showed the remains dated to the late 11th-early 12th centuries, a time when pilgrimages were at their height in Europe. Several lines of evidence in connection with the burial suggested this was an individual of some means and prestige. Although buried within the leprosarium cemetery, the skeleton showed only minimal skeletal evidence for leprosy, which was confined to the bones of the feet and legs. Nonetheless, molecular testing of several skeletal elements, including uninvolved bones all showed robust evidence of DNA from Mycobacterium leprae, consistent with the lepromatous or multibacillary form of the disease. We infer that in life, this individual almost certainly suffered with multiple soft tissue lesions. Genotyping of the M.leprae strain showed this belonged to the 2F lineage, today associated with cases from South-Central and Western Asia. During osteological examination it was noted that the cranium and facial features displayed atypical morphology for northern European populations. Subsequently, geochemical isotopic analyses carried out on tooth enamel indicated that this individual was indeed not local to the Winchester region, although it was not possible to be more specific about their geographic origin.
Hunter-gatherers living in Europe during the transition from the late Pleistocene to the Holocene intensified food acquisition by broadening the range of resources exploited to include marine taxa. However, little is known on the nature of this dietary change in the Mediterranean Basin. A key area to investigate this issue is the archipelago of the Ègadi Islands, most of which were connected to Sicily until the early Holocene. The site of Grotta d'Oriente, on the present-day island of Favignana, was occupied by hunter-gatherers when Postglacial environmental changes were taking place (14,000-7,500 cal BP). Here we present the results of AMS radiocarbon dating, palaeogenetic and isotopic analyses undertaken on skeletal remains of the humans buried at Grotta d'Oriente. Analyses of the mitochondrial hypervariable first region of individual Oriente B, which belongs to the HV-1 haplogroup, suggest for the first time on genetic grounds that humans living in Sicily during the early Holocene could have originated from groups that migrated from the Italian Peninsula around the Last Glacial Maximum. Carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses show that the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of Favignana consumed almost exclusively protein from terrestrial game and that there was only a slight increase in marine food consumption from the late Pleistocene to the early Holocene. This dietary change was similar in scale to that at sites on mainland Sicily and in the rest of the Mediterranean, suggesting that the hunter-gatherers of Grotta d'Oriente did not modify their subsistence strategies specifically to adapt to the progressive isolation of Favignana. The limited development of technologies for intensively exploiting marine resources was probably a consequence both of Mediterranean oligotrophy and of the small effective population size of these increasingly isolated human groups, which made innovation less likely and prevented transmission of fitness-enhancing adaptations.
Hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (HDX-MS) is an important method for protein structure-function analysis. The bottom-up approach uses protein digestion to localize deuteration to higher resolution, and the essential measurement involves centroid mass determinations on a very large set of peptides. In the course of evaluating systems for various projects, we established two HDX-MS platforms that consisted of an FT-MS and a high-resolution QTOF mass spectrometer, each with matched front-end fluidic systems. Digests of proteins spanning a 20-110kDa range were deuterated to equilibrium, and figures-of-merit for a typical bottom-up HDX-MS experiment were compared for each platform. The Orbitrap Velos identified 64% more peptides than the 5600 QTOF, with a 42% overlap between the two systems, independent of protein size. Precision in deuterium measurements using the Orbitrap marginally exceeded that of the QTOF, depending on the Orbitrap resolution setting. However, the unique nature of FT-MS data generates situations where deuteration measurements can be inaccurate, due to destructive interference arising from mismatches in elemental mass defects. This is shown through the analysis of the peptides common to both platforms, where deuteration values can be as low as 35% of the expected values, depending on FT-MS resolution, peptide length and charge state. These findings are supported by simulations of Orbitrap transients, and highlight that caution should be exercised in deriving centroid mass values from FT transients that do not support baseline separation of the full isotopic composition.
BACKGROUND: The characterization of fast-decaying radiotracers that are labeled with carbon-11 (t1/2 = 20.38 min), including critical measurement of specific radioactivity (activity per mole at a specific time) before release for use in positron-emission tomography (PET), has relied heavily on chromatographic plus radiometric measurements, each of which may be vulnerable to significant errors. Thus, we aimed to develop a mass-specific detection method using sensitive liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry/mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) for identifying 11C-labeled tracers and for verifying their specific radioactivities. METHODS: The LC-MS/MS was tuned and set up with methods to generate and measure the product ions specific for carbon-11 species and M + 1 carrier (predominantly the carbon-13 isotopologue) in four 11C-labeled tracers. These radiotracers were synthesized and then analyzed before extensive carbon-11 decay. The peak areas of carbon-11 species and M + 1 carrier from the LC-MS/MS measurement and the calculated abundances of carbon-12 carrier and M + 1 radioactive species gave the mole fraction of carbon-11 species in each sample. This value upon multiplication with the theoretical specific radioactivity of carbon-11 gave the specific radioactivity of the radiotracer. RESULTS: LC-MS/MS of each 11C-labeled tracer generated the product ion peaks for carbon-11 species and M + 1 carrier at the expected LC retention time. The intensity of the radioactive peak diminished as time elapsed and was undetectable after six half-lives of carbon-11. Measurements of radiotracer-specific radioactivity determined solely by LC-MS/MS at timed intervals gave a half-life for carbon-11 (20.43 min) in excellent agreement with the value obtained radiometrically. Additionally, the LC-MS/MS measurement gave specific radioactivity values (83 to 505 GBq/mumol) in good agreement with those from conventional radiometric methods. CONCLUSIONS: C-Labeled tracers were characterized at a fundamental level involving isolation and mass detection of extremely low-abundance carbon-11 species along with the M + 1 carrier counterpart. This LC-MS/MS method for characterizing fast-decaying radiotracers is valuable in both the development and production of PET radiopharmaceuticals.
Nautilus is often used as an analogue for the ecology and behavior of extinct externally shelled cephalopods. Nautilus shell grows quickly, has internal growth banding, and is widely believed to precipitate aragonite in oxygen isotope equilibrium with seawater. Pieces of shell from a wild-caught Nautilus macromphalus from New Caledonia and from a Nautilus belauensis reared in an aquarium were cast in epoxy, polished, and then imaged. Growth bands were visible in the outer prismatic layer of both shells. The thicknesses of the bands are consistent with previously reported daily growth rates measured in aquarium reared individuals. In situ analysis of oxygen isotope ratios using secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) with 10 μm beam-spot size reveals inter- and intra-band δ18O variation. In the wild-caught sample, a traverse crosscutting 45 growth bands yielded δ18O values ranging 2.5‰, from +0.9 to -1.6 ‰ (VPDB), a range that is larger than that observed in many serial sampling of entire shells by conventional methods. The maximum range within a single band (~32 μm) was 1.5‰, and 27 out of 41 bands had a range larger than instrumental precision (±2 SD = 0.6‰). The results from the wild individual suggest depth migration is recorded by the shell, but are not consistent with a simple sinusoidal, diurnal depth change pattern. To create the observed range of δ18O, however, this Nautilus must have traversed a temperature gradient of at least ~12°C, corresponding to approximately 400 m depth change. Isotopic variation was also measured in the aquarium-reared sample, but the pattern within and between bands likely reflects evaporative enrichment arising from a weekly cycle of refill and replacement of the aquarium water. Overall, this work suggests that depth migration behavior in ancient nektonic mollusks could be elucidated by SIMS analysis across individual growth bands.
Coupled measurements of nitrate (NO3(-)), nitrogen (N), and oxygen (O) isotopic composition (δ(15)NNO3 and δ(18)ONO3) were used to investigate the sources and processes of N cycling, while the microbial source tracking (MST) method was used to identify microbiological pollution in the surface water of the Sava River Basin (SRB) in autumn in 2014 and 2015 during high and low water discharge. Atmospheric nitrate deposition or nitrate-containing fertilizers were found not to be significant sources of riverine nitrate in the SRB. The ranges of isotope values suggest that NO3(-) in the SRB derives from soil nitrification, sewage, and/or manure, which were further supported by MST analysis. Microbiological indicators show the existence of hotspots of fecal pollution in the SRB, which are human associated. Long-term observations indicate persistent fecal contamination at selected locations caused by continuous discharge of untreated wastewaters into the SRB.
The timing and nature of igneous activity recorded at a single Mars ejection site can be determined from the isotope analyses of Martian meteorites. Northwest Africa (NWA) 7635 has an Sm-Nd crystallization age of 2.403 ± 0.140 billion years, and isotope data indicate that it is derived from an incompatible trace element-depleted mantle source similar to that which produced a geochemically distinct group of 327- to 574-million-year-old “depleted” shergottites. Cosmogenic nuclide data demonstrate that NWA 7635 was ejected from Mars 1.1 million years ago (Ma), as were at least 10 other depleted shergottites. The shared ejection age is consistent with a common ejection site for these meteorites. The spatial association of 327- to 2403-Ma depleted shergottites indicates >2 billion years of magmatism from a long-lived and geochemically distinct volcanic center near the ejection site.