The applicability of accumulated degree-day calculations on enclosed remains in a lotic aquatic environment
Stark, Sally C.
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This study examined the differences in decomposition rates and the resulting postmortem submergence interval (PMSI) of stillborn pigs and decapitated adult pig heads enclosed in plastic trash bags. Sixteen neonate pigs were divided into two variable categories: exposed and submerged in water, enclosed in a plastic trash bag and submerged in water. Upon recovery, each sample was assigned a Total Body Score. Eighteen decapitated adult pig heads were divided into two variable categories: nine heads were enclosed in plastic trash bags, and nine heads left exposed in the water. Twelve decapitated pig heads were divided into two terrestrial variable categories: six heads were enclosed in plastic trash bags and allowed to decompose on land, and six heads were left exposed on land. Accumulated degree-days (ADD) were calculated following the scoring guides provided in Moffatt et al. (2016), Megyesi et al. (2005) and Heaton et al. (2010). These guides were used to create a baseline decomposition rate established from the control groups decay rate. This baseline in the decomposition rate was then used to establish a measurable difference between exposed and enclosed samples. It was hypothesized that head samples submerged (enclosed/exposed) would decompose slower than the terrestrial samples (enclosed/exposed). It was further hypothesized that all enclosed/submerged samples would decompose slower than the exposed/terrestrial remains. A univariate analysis of variance (ANOVA) test found no statistically significant interactions between submerged, enclosed or exposed remains, indicating that the enclosure of remains in a plastic trash bag, and subsequent submergence or not did not affect the decomposition rate of either sample. An additional ANOVA found statistically significant differences between the rate of neonate sample decomposition and adult head sample decomposition. Paired sample t-tests produced statistically significant results that indicate the inaccuracy of the ADD calculation methods developed by Megyesi et al. (2005) and Heaton et al. (2010) to neonate-sized remains, decapitated heads, submerged enclosed/exposed samples or terrestrial enclosed/exposed samples.