Decomposition of an exposed cadaver is a continuous process, beginning at the moment of death and ending when the body is reduced to a dried skeleton. Traditional estimates of the period of time since death or post-mortem interval have been based on a series of grossly observable changes to the body, including livor mortis, algor mortis, rigor mortis and similar phenomena. These changes will be described briefly and their relative significance discussed. More recently, insects, mites and other arthropods have been increasingly used by law enforcement to provide an estimate of the post-mortem interval. Although the process of decomposition is continuous, it is useful to divide this into a series of five stages: Fresh, Bloated, Decay, Postdecay and Skeletal. Here these stages are characterized by physical parameters and related assemblages of arthropods, to provide a framework for consideration of the decomposition process and acarine relationships to the body.
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Thanks are extended to Drs. William C. Rodriguez III, Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, AFIP and Edward T. McDonough, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Connecticut, for illustrations of post-mortem artifacts and stages of decomposition.
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Lee Goff, M. Early post-mortem changes and stages of decomposition in exposed cadavers. Exp Appl Acarol 49, 21–36 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10493-009-9284-9
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