I was just flicking through various journals and came across this article. The authors applied a technique initially used to separate sheep and goats to attempt to identify marine mammals. This technique is called Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS) can can separate mammals into sub-family levels. This involves collagen peptide mass fingerprinting as collagen has a better longevity than DNA and therefore could be used to identify extinct animals. The main advantages of this technique is that it allows molecular data to be gathered from remains which date back further than other methods can currently date, it can be used on poorly preserved bone and can be used on fragmented material.
The aim of this study was to apply this process to marine mammals, in particular cetaceans (whales) and pinnipes (seals), as the bones of these animals are often difficult to identify. Cetacean are often fragmented and are usually labelled as either ‘whale’ or ‘marine mammal’ in collections where as the pinnipeds tend to have intra-specific bone morphology. This will allow for bio geographical data to be gathered as well as the distribution of the species, providing insights into the environment and ecology of regions in the past.
The paper goes on to discuss which species could be identified and how they related to hunting communities and various archaeological records. Definitely worth a read if you’re interested in collagen fingerprinting, marine mammals and archaeological hunting sites.
Buckley, M., S. Fraser, et al. (2014). “Species identification of archaeological marine mammals using collagen fingerprinting.” Journal of Archaeological Science 41(0): 631-641. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2013.08.021