Application of vertebral chemistry in elasmobranchs has the potential to progress our understanding of individual migration patterns and population dynamics. However, the influence of handling artifacts such as sample cleaning and storage on vertebral chemistry is unclear and requires experimental investigation.
Vertebrae centra from blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus) were cleaned with bleach (NaOCl) for five minutes (m), 1 hour (h) and 24 (h) in a cleaning experiment and stored frozen, in 70% ethanol, and 10% formalin treatments for 20 days in a storage experiment. Element concentrations (Li, Na, Mg, Mn, Cu, Zn, Sr, Ba, Pb) were quantified in the outer edges of vertebrae centra using laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and the [element:Ca] molar ratios were compared among treatments and individual sharks.
Bleach cleaning significantly increased [Na:Ca] and formalin storage decreased [Na:Ca] and [Mg:Ca], but ethanol storage did not affect any [element:Ca] ratios. Vertebrae edge [Sr:Ca], [Ba:Ca] and [Mn:Ca] varied among individual sharks, potentially reflecting different environments that they had previously inhabited.
This study shows how archiving methods for vertebrae cartilage can affect primary element:Ca compositions. We demonstrate greatest element:Ca stabilities for vertebrae with limited bleach exposure that are either stored in ethanol or frozen, supporting the use of comparably archived sample sets in future elemental studies.