Volume 44, Issue 5 (September 1999)
Experimental Forensic and Bioanthropological Aspects of Soft Tissue Taphonomy: 1. Factors Influencing Postmortem Tissue Desiccation Rate
Euthanized rats' carcasses were exposed in an environmental chamber to multiple variables including: (1) position, (2) enveloping clothing, and (3) soil interment in an effort to determine the individual variables' effect on postmortem rate of body and visceral organ water loss. Results indicated that body water loss was enhanced by a horizontal position versus vertical, probably because of wider spread of bacteria- and enzyme-laden abdominal fluid secondary to diaphragm digestion with consequent greater tissue digestion and liquefaction. Clothing also accelerated the desiccation rate. Desiccation was about equally as effective by soil interment as by air exposure, though simulating windy conditions by tripling the air flow rate resulted in much more rapid desiccation in the air-exposed specimen. These studies suggest that the single most important factor influencing postmortem body water loss rate is the environment at the skin surface that acts to enhance or impair water removal from the skin surface and thus influences the water concentration gradient between the skin and underlying deeper tissues.