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18.10.2016 | Original Article | Ausgabe 3/2017

International Journal of Legal Medicine 3/2017

A comparison of carcass decomposition and associated insect succession onto burnt and unburnt pig carcasses

International Journal of Legal Medicine > Ausgabe 3/2017
Craig S. McIntosh, Ian R. Dadour, Sasha C. Voss


The rate of decomposition and insect succession onto decomposing pig carcasses were investigated following burning of carcasses. Ten pig carcasses (40–45 kg) were exposed to insect activity during autumn (March–April) in Western Australia. Five replicates were burnt to a degree described by the Crow-Glassman Scale (CGS) level #2, while five carcasses were left unburnt as controls. Burning carcasses greatly accelerated decomposition in contrast to unburnt carcasses. Physical modifications following burning such as skin discolouration, splitting of abdominal tissue and leathery consolidation of skin eliminated evidence of bloat and altered microambient temperatures associated with carcasses throughout decomposition. Insect species identified on carcasses were consistent between treatment groups; however, a statistically significant difference in insect succession onto remains was evident between treatments (PERMANOVA F (1, 224) = 14.23, p < 0.01) during an 8-day period that corresponds with the wet stage of decomposition. Differences were noted in the arrival time of late colonisers (Coleoptera) and the development of colonising insects between treatment groups. Differences in the duration of decomposition stages and insect assemblages indicate that burning has an effect on both rate of decomposition and insect succession. The findings presented here provide baseline data for entomological casework involving burnt remains criminal investigations.

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