Debugging Decomposition Data—Comparative Taphonomic Studies and the Influence of Insects and Carcass Size on Decomposition Rate


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Tal Simmons, Ph.D.
Maudland Building
School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences
University of Central Lancashire
Preston, PR1 2HE
United Kingdom


Abstract:  Comparison of data from a variety of environments and ambient temperatures has previously been difficult as few studies used standardized measures of time/temperature and decomposition. In this paper, data from previous studies and recent experiments are compared using simple conversions. These conversions allow comparison across multiple environments and experiments for the first time. Plotting decomposition score against logADD allows the exponential progression of decomposition to be expressed as a simple linear equation. Data comparison from many environments and temperatures shows no difference in decomposition progression when measured using Accumulated Degree Days. The major effector of change in rate was insect presence, regardless of depositional environment, species, or season. Body size is significant when carcasses are accessed by insects; when insects are excluded, while bodies are indoors, submerged, or buried, then decomposition progresses at the same rate regardless of body size.