Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Robert I. Sundick

Second Advisor

Dr. Tal Simmons

Third Advisor

Dr. Neal H. Haskell

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Detailed knowledge of the behavior of insects and other arthropods associated with decomposing remains is essential to estimate the time since death. To date, many studies have been conducted on human and animal decomposition rates in warm and/or humid climates, but little is known about decomposition rates in a northern wintertime environment. This study was undertaken to document the progression of decay and arthropod activity under these conditions and provide data that can be utilized for estimating time since death in such climates.

Six stillborn pigs (Sus scrofa Linnaeus) were placed in cages in a woodlot near Western Michigan University from January through May, 1992. Air, soil, and carcass temperatures, decomposition, and arthropod activity were monitored daily. Carcass decomposition was divided into two stages: Stage I was marked by minimal arthropod activity due to periods of freezing and thawing, which also slowed decay rates substantially. Stage II was dominated by the development of large colonies of adult and larval carrion beetles (Coleoptera: Silphidae), which rapidly skeletonized the remains. No other species were observed in sufficient numbers to affect decomposition.

Included in

Anthropology Commons