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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 220407 Find in a Library
Title: Effect of Repeated Physical Disturbance on Soft Tissue Decomposition--Are Taphonomic Studies an Accurate Reflection of Decomposition?
Journal: Journal of Forensic Sciences  Volume:52  Issue:5  Dated:September 2007  Pages:1007-1014
Author(s): Rachel E. Adlam M.Sc.; Tal Simmons Ph.D.
Date Published: September 2007
Page Count: 8
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study determined whether the frequency of data collection procedures that disturb carcasses involved in experiments to determine decomposition times might themselves be variables that influence decomposition.
Abstract: The study found that repeated physical disturbance of a body associated with experimental data collection could significantly influence individual variables that contribute to the decomposition process. The decomposition variables significantly influenced by data collection procedures were weight loss and carcass temperature. There was a faster weight loss in the carcasses for which data were collected only once during the experiment compared with carcasses for which data were collected every 3 days over the 3 weeks of the experiment. The undisturbed carcasses also showed a higher internal temperature. These weight and temperature differences may have been due to increased maggot activity in the undisturbed carcasses, which resulted in faster consumption of the carcass by the maggots (faster weight loss) and increased carcass temperature. Despite differences in these variables, however, there was no overall difference in the decomposition (time to skeletonization) for the disturbed and undisturbed groups. Further research is required in order to gain a fuller understanding of the interactions that occurred. This will improve the accuracy of estimates of the time between death and the discovery of a body exposed to various environmental conditions. The study compared 24 rabbit carcasses divided into 3 groups of 8 that were subjected to the same experimental procedures. Within each of the three groups, one rabbit was "disturbed" (measurements every 3 days). The other rabbits were disturbed only once during the experiment. Decomposition was scored by using visual assessment of soft tissue changes, and numerical data such as weight loss and carcass temperature were recorded. The effects of disturbance over time were examined for weight loss, carcass temperature, soil acidity, and decomposition. 6 tables, 9 figures, and 38 references
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Death investigations; Forensic sciences; Investigative techniques; Research methods; Testing and measurement; Time of death determination
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