N is for Nitrogen

Nitrogen is the most abundant gas in the Earth’s atmosphere. It is also an important component of the amino acids that make up proteins in the bodies of living organisms.

Isotopes of nitrogen fractionate according to trophic level, that is, where the organism lies on the food chain (more properly, the food web). This is the origin of the common saying in isotope geochemistry, “You are what you eat, plus a few permil.” For nitrogen, on average a consumer’s δ15N is 3‰ more positive than the organism that is being eaten (whether it be a plant or another animal).

This relationship of nitrogen isotopes in proteins can be used to determine predator-prey relationships between extinct animals, presuming that proteins are preserved.

2 thoughts on “N is for Nitrogen #AtoZChallenge

  1. Hi Paleololigo.
    I went through all your challenge posts and didn’t see a follow button.
    I’m one of those interested laypersons who loves this stuff.
    Just popped in from the A to Z challenge.
    Blessings from Geoff in South Africa.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s