(Received 24 June 1988; accepted 9 August 1988)
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Greater understanding of animal scavenging of human remains can assist forensic science investigators in locating and recovering dispersed skeletal elements, in recognizing damage produced by scavengers, and in making more informed estimates of the postmortem interval. The pattern of skeletal damage can indicate whether the body was scavenged while intact or at some time after other natural processes of disarticulation had begun.
This study analyzed thirty partially to fully skeletonized human remains with respect to scavenging at the time of body discovery in order to determine if a patterned consumption sequence existed. The scavengers were primarily coyotes (Canis latrans) and domestic dogs (C. familiaris). Sixteen non-carnivore-scavenged remains were also examined and contrasted with the carnivore-scavenged sample.
Observed postmortem intervals from death to recovery ranged from 4 h to 52 months. Results demonstrate that canid scavenging of human remains takes place in sequential stages: Stage 0 = no bony involvement; Stage 1 = ventral thorax damaged and one or both upper extremities removed; Stage 2 = lower extremity involvement; Stage 3 = only vertebral segments remain articulated; and Stage 4 = total disarticulation. Results revealed a clear correspondence between observed stages of disarticulation and the postmortem interval.
Professor, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Chief medical examiner, King County Medical Examiner's Office, Seattle, WA
Chief investigator, King County Medical Examiner's Office, Seattle, WA
Stock #: JFS12679J