Taphonomy of Child-Sized Remains: A Study of Scattering and Scavenging in Virginia, USA

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Abstract:

ABSTRACT:

Child-sized pig carcasses (Sus scrofa) were placed in surface deposit and buried scenarios in a wooded area of Virginia from May 1998 through December 2000, to examine the taphonomic effects of decompositional changes, predator scavenging, and the extent of remains scattering. Changes were observed through on-site examination, charting of remains, and recorded video imaging. Analysis of data revealed that utilization of corpses as food sources by vertebrates was dependent upon invertebrate colonization. Vertebrates avoided feeding on the corpses while invertebrate colonization was active, and would feed before invertebrates successfully colonized a corpse, or would wait until the invertebrate populations migrated away from the corpse. Among vertebrates, there was no apparent succession order for the animals utilizing the remains as a food source. Different vertebrates would feed at different times based upon diurnal or nocturnal predilection. Analysis noted an accidental cooperative relationship between the invertebrates and vertebrates scavenging on the corpses. Certain vertebrates gained access to the internal tissues by utilizing openings in the corpses caused by invertebrate and other vertebrate scavenging. Alternately, carrion-frequenting insects were afforded access to previously inaccessible colonization sites as a result of scavenging vertebrate activities.

Keywords: child-sized remains; forensic science; scavenging; taphonomy

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1556-4029.2006.00134.x

Affiliations: 1: Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI Academy–NCAVC, Quantico, VA 22135. 2: Federal Bureau of Investigation, NW, Washington, DC 20535-0002

Publication date: May 1, 2006

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