Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS)

ZooMS refers to our use of soft-ionization mass spectrometry for the species identification of archaeological (and palaeontological) specimens. These usually derive from fragmented specimens that are no longer morphologically identifiable. The advantages of ZooMS over ancient DNA (aDNA) methods of species identification (which we can also carry out), is that ZooMS can be very high-throughput, producing results for thousands of specimens within 24 hours and at much lower costs. Because these methods use proteins, particularly collagen, which is much more stable than aDNA, they can be applied to the analysis of much older materials (>1 million years old in some cases) as well as those from much warmer climates (e.g., the Near East).

The main advantages over other techniques are high-throughput, low costs, and high success rates (particularly in archaeological material <1,000,000 years old – but biomolecule preservation is affected by several factors, including temperature, pH, hydrology, etc.).

If you are interested in the potential of ZooMS and have any queries regarding collaboration with the ZooMS laboratory, or having samples analysed per service, please do not hesitate to contact me on m.buckley@manchester.ac.uk.

An extinct giant camel found in the High Arctic. Reconstruction showing bone fragments found, courtesy of CMN/Alex Tirabasso.