Firstly I needed to ascertain whether the signature was consistent accross the tortoise carapace and plastron. To do this I used a dental scaler to scrape a small amount of keratin from the surface of various scutes. This technique will be safe to use on live tortoises, which is important if it is ever used as a law enforcement tool.
I took samples from three periods of growth so I could look at how signature (i.e. diet and/or location) changed over time. These shell samples are the most important of all I've taken for just this reason. They will allow us to look at the entire lifespan of the tortoise.
In addition to these, I have taken claw clippings and whole claw, and liver, muscle and blood.
The latter three presented a problem – how do you get into a tortoise? Rather foolishly I initially tried using a scalpel – I have no idea why I thought this was in any way logical but I’m going to use the excuse of being tired. A good night’s sleep and three broken blades later I realised my mistake and went out to buy a hacksaw. This was far more productive, though drew some strange looks from others in the lab. Mind you it still took a while to actually get the carapace off – these are incredibly tough little beasts!
GO TO PRELIMINARY RESULTS