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The Influence of Preburial Insect Access on the Decomposition Rate

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This study compared total body score (TBS) in buried remains (35 cm depth) with and without insect access prior to burial. Sixty rabbit carcasses were exhumed at 50 accumulated degree day (ADD) intervals. Weight loss, TBS, intra-abdominal decomposition, carcass/soil interface temperature, and below-carcass soil pH were recorded and analyzed. Results showed significant differences (p << 0.001) in decomposition rates between carcasses with and without insect access prior to burial. An approximately 30% enhanced decomposition rate with insects was observed. TBS was the most valid tool in postmortem interval (PMI) estimation. All other variables showed only weak relationships to decomposition stages, adding little value to PMI estimation. Although progress in estimating the PMI for surface remains has been made, no previous studies have accomplished this for buried remains. This study builds a framework to which further comparable studies can contribute, to produce predictive models for PMI estimation in buried human remains.

Keywords: accumulated degree days; burial; decomposition; forensic science; insects; postmortem interval

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Postweg 2, 70736 Fellbach, Germany. 2: School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, PR1 2HE, United Kingdom.

Publication date: July 1, 2010


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