Effect of body mass and clothing on decomposition of pig carcassesReport as inadecuate

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International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 128, Issue 6, pp 1039–1048

First Online: 02 February 2014Received: 04 December 2013Accepted: 15 January 2014DOI: 10.1007-s00414-014-0965-5

Cite this article as: Matuszewski, S., Konwerski, S., Frątczak, K. et al. Int J Legal Med 2014 128: 1039. doi:10.1007-s00414-014-0965-5


Carcass mass and carcass clothing are factors of potential high forensic importance. In casework, corpses differ in mass and kind or extent of clothing; hence, a question arises whether methods for post-mortem interval estimation should take these differences into account. Unfortunately, effects of carcass mass and clothing on specific processes in decomposition and related entomological phenomena are unclear. In this article, simultaneous effects of these factors are analysed. The experiment followed a complete factorial block design with four levels of carcass mass small carcasses 5–15 kg, medium carcasses 15.1–30 kg, medium-large carcasses 35–50 kg, large carcasses 55–70 kg and two levels of carcass clothing clothed and unclothed. Pig carcasses N = 24 were grouped into three blocks, which were separated in time. Generally, carcass mass revealed significant and frequently large effects in almost all analyses, whereas carcass clothing had only minor influence on some phenomena related to the advanced decay. Carcass mass differently affected particular gross processes in decomposition. Putrefaction was more efficient in larger carcasses, which manifested itself through earlier onset and longer duration of bloating. On the other hand, active decay was less efficient in these carcasses, with relatively low average rate, resulting in slower mass loss and later onset of advanced decay. The average rate of active decay showed a significant, logarithmic increase with an increase in carcass mass, but only in these carcasses on which active decay was driven solely by larval blowflies. If a blowfly-driven active decay was followed by active decay driven by larval Necrodes littoralis Coleoptera: Silphidae, which was regularly found in medium-large and large carcasses, the average rate showed only a slight and insignificant increase with an increase in carcass mass. These results indicate that lower efficiency of active decay in larger carcasses is a consequence of a multi-guild and competition-related pattern of this process. Pattern of mass loss in large and medium-large carcasses was not sigmoidal, but rather exponential. The overall rate of decomposition was strongly, but not linearly, related to carcass mass. In a range of low mass decomposition rate increased with an increase in mass, then at about 30 kg, there was a distinct decrease in rate, and again at about 50 kg, the rate slightly increased. Until about 100 accumulated degree-days larger carcasses gained higher total body scores than smaller carcasses. Afterwards, the pattern was reversed; moreover, differences between classes of carcasses enlarged with the progress of decomposition. In conclusion, current results demonstrate that cadaver mass is a factor of key importance for decomposition, and as such, it should be taken into account by decomposition-related methods for post-mortem interval estimation.

KeywordsForensic entomology Forensic taphonomy Carrion decomposition Processes in decomposition Total body score Carcass mass loss Post-mortem interval  Download fulltext PDF

Author: Szymon Matuszewski - Szymon Konwerski - Katarzyna Frątczak - Michał Szafałowicz

Source: https://link.springer.com/

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