For long time US forensic investigators thought they had the low down on all there is to know about human decay.
By taking into consideration temperature, insect activity and weather conditions they believed they could compute just how long it took a corpse to be reduced to bone.
But they never took into consideration a pesky bird with an appetite for rotting flesh.
At a body farm in Texas, scientists watched a flock of vultures reduce a corpse to a skeleton in a matter of hours. The woman’s body, which had been placed in a field as part of a study, had laid there undisturbed for five weeks. That is until the flock arrived
After the vultures had finished, a murder detective looking at the skeleton would have assumed the woman had been dead at least six months, maybe even a year. The time of death all important in police work.
Scientists at the Texas State University had set up motion sensing cameras after they discovered scavenger activity at the body farm. Scavengers weren’t suppose to be there.
The cameras captured the vultures arrive they also caught the birds jumping up and down on the woman’s body, breaking some of the ribs. This is something the researchers realised would have been interpreted as trauma associated with the crime.
Makes me wonder what impact our local birdlife have on murder victims lying out in the open. Our vultures, much bigger than their US cousins, would strip corpses in a matter of minutes.
These big birds are not that widespread, but there are more common species like crows and yellow billed kites that would also be partial to a feast of human flesh.
Now the scientists in Texas are attempting to develop models to identify vulture activity at crime scenes. Hope our cops take a look at that study too.