The effects of insect on soft tissue decomposition
Fasano, Ann D.
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A primary goal of the forensic anthropologist is assisting in the estimation of a post-mortem interval. This assessment is largely based upon the degree and quality of soft tissue decomposition, influenced by factors including temperature, humidity, insect activity, carnivore and rodent activity, perimortem trauma and the depositional environment. While the effects of temperature on decomposition have been long appreciated and initially studied, little or no research has been conducted on the disruption of insect activity and how that disturbance may affect the decomposition process. This study was designed to determine if the exposure of skin surface of porcine remains to insect repellant (specifically, DEET) has an effect on the presence and overall activity of insects during decomposition. Two experiments were conducted in the spring and fall with results indicating that insect repellant slows the rate of decomposition. Such findings are important for criminal investigators requiring an accurate estimation of post-mortem time to appreciate those factors that may adversely affect the process and rate of soft tissue deterioration.