Trace Element Diffusivities in Bone Rule Out Simple Diffusive Uptake During Fossilization but Explain in vivo Uptake and Release

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Diffusion rates of numerous trace elements in bone at 20 °C were determined using laser-ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry analysis of experimentally induced diffusion profiles. Diffusivities are about 1 order of magnitude slower than current semiquantitative geochemical views and about 1.5 orders of magnitude faster than indirect radiotracer estimates. Intrabone volume diffusion is too slow and too similar among many elements to explain trace element profiles in young fossils and archeological materials. Diffusivity differences among elements do, however, explain disparate biokinetic washout of Sr vs. Ba and of light vs. heavy rare earth elements (REEs). These results improve the understanding of the physical principles underlying biokinetic models and rates and mechanisms of trace element alteration of phosphatic tissues in paleontological, archeological, and crystal-chemical contexts. Recrystallization and transport limitations in soils explain trace element profiles in young fossils better than intrabone volume diffusion alone and imply that diffusion of REE and other trivalent cations is likely controlled by a common charge–compensating species rather than ionic radii or partition coefficients.