Tina Luedecke

Gruppe Lüdecke


Dietary change, specifically the incorporation of animal resources, is considered a key event in human evolution. However, direct evidence for the trophic behavior of our hominin ancestors remains elusive. The earliest signs of meat consumption include crude stone tools and possible cut marks on fossil bones (3.4 to 3.3 Ma). But their origin and the assumption that Australopithecus shaped and used tools prior to the emergence of Homo are heavily debated. 

Nitrogen (N) isotopes measured in collagen from fossil bone and dentin provide key insights into the dietary behavior of species in modern ecosystems and the recent geological past (<120 kyr). However, due to diagenetic alteration, such analyses have been limited to sites with exceptional preservation. Unlike bone or dentin, organic matter in tooth enamel is protected from alteration by its highly mineralized structure, potentially preserving isotopic signals over millions of years, but low organic matter content in enamel has so far prevented N isotope analysis. 

Recently, my colleagues and I developed a novel oxidation-denitrification method for analyzing the isotopic composition of mineral-bound nitrogen in ~5 mg enamel, which requires over 100-fold less N compared to traditional approaches. We established that enamel N records the isotopic composition of diet and preserves a trophic signal in both a feeding experiment and in natural ecosystems (Leichliter et al., 2021).


2021 – present

Group leader of the Emmy Noether Group for Hominin Meat Consumption at the Max-Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany.

DFG Project LU 2199/2: The Onset and Evolution of Early Hominin Meat Consumption (HoMeCo) – The position of Plio-Pleistocene hominins in African paleo-food webs based on nitrogen isotopes in tooth enamel

2022 – present

Guest researcher at National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. Department of Earth Sciences, Paleontology Section (head: Dr. E.K. Ndiema).

2021 – present

Guest researcher at Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F), Frankfurt, Germany. Group Paleoclimate and Paleoenvironmental Dynamics (head: Prof. A. Mulch)

2017 – present

Research Associate at Primate Models for Behavioural Evolution, Institute of Human Sciences, University of Oxford, England (host: Dr. S. Carvalho)

2016 – present

Geochemist for the Paleo-Primate-Project Gorongosa, reconstruction of paleoenvironments of the southern part of the East African Rift, Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique (PIs: Dr. S. Carvalho & Prof. R. Bobe)


Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Climate Geochemistry Department, Max-Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany (head: Prof. G. Haug)

2019 – 2020

Guest researcher at the AMG laboratory, Max-Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany (head: Dr. A. Martínez García)

2017 – 2020

Post-Doctoral Researcher (DFG-funded) at Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F), Frankfurt, Germany. Group Paleoclimate and Paleoenvironmental Dynamics (head: Prof. A. Mulch)

DFG-ICDP-Project personal grant (LU 2199/1 and /1-2): Early Hominin Adaptation in the Southern East African Rift – Plio-Pleistocene African temperature, ecosystem and early hominin diet patterns across a woodland-grassland savanna boundary

2016 – 2017

Post-Doctoral Researcher, Biomaterials and Biomimetics, College of Dentistry, New York University, New York City, USA. Method-development of simultaneous measurement of absolute concentrations of 71 elements in the periodic table (Li to U) via ICP-MS (head: Prof. T. Bromage)

2011 – 2016

PhD candidate, Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Frankfurt, Germany. Stable isotope-based reconstruction of Neogene terrestrial archives. Magna cum laude (supervisors: Prof. A. Mulch & Prof. F. Schrenk)

2004 – 2010

Undergraduate education, Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz-University-Hannover, Germany, Diplom geosciences.

For list of publication see Google Scholar

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