Forensic Entomology: Decomposition Study

What’s an entomology grad student do for fun you might ask?  Well, drive around and pick up road kill!  Doesn’t everyone!?!  This poor groundhog has seen better days though I doubt he remembers them.  Placed in my little bone yard this little fella has provided a nice feast for the local flies and beetles.  See below for some images and a short video of that sweet Snap-Crackle-Pop music!

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Vertebral column and pelvic girdle of a groundhog thoroughly covered in fly larvae. These are most likely Calliphoridae larvae (bottle/blow flies). The larvae pack themselves tightly so as to conserve space and better regulate their temperature.

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Closer up of the larvae. Their mouth parts are facing down so they can chow down while their butts are facing up so they can breathe through their two posterior spiracles! Those spiracles are extremely useful, not just for identifying their age but also the species.

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Awh….Bug Love. Mating pair of carrion beetles (Silphinae: Silphidae). Wherever there is rotting flesh, there you will find mating carrion beetles. Most beetles don’t come along to eat the remains themselves but rather the fly larvae. Not these guys. Along with Dermestid (carpet/hide) beetles, these will eat the larvae and the carcass!

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Look at how nicely those bones have been cleaned up for me! Insects are sure helpful! What you are seeing is the proximal end of the ulna and radius as well as the distal end of the humerus. I swear, the humerus is one of my favorite bones. It just looks so pretty. I especially like cervid humeri.

 

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