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Forensic taphonomy: Vertebrate scavenging in the temperate southwestern Cape, South Africa

Spies, Maximilian J., Gibbon, Victoria E., Finaughty, Devin A. (2018) Forensic taphonomy: Vertebrate scavenging in the temperate southwestern Cape, South Africa. Forensic Science International, 290 . pp. 62-69. ISSN 0379-0738. (doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2018.06.022) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:78929)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)
Official URL
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2018.06.022

Abstract

Vertebrate scavenging can significantly accelerate the rate of decomposition, which can hinder estimating the post-mortem interval (PMI). Patterns of decomposition and scavenging are highly specific to different environments in a forensic context, with no known data for South Africa. A better understanding of local decomposition patterns, taking scavenging into account, could increase the accuracy of PMI estimation and improve identification of human remains. Using a porcine model in the forensically significant thicketed Cape Flats Dune Strandveld habitat, the effect of vertebrate scavenging on the decomposition process was examined. This part of Cape Town suffers from poor socioeconomic conditions and a high murder rate, which is due in part to the dense population. Human decomposition was simulated using three small (∼20 kg) domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus) carcasses, with ethical clearance. One pig served as a control and was caged to prevent vertebrate but not invertebrate access; the other two served as experimental treatments. They were deployed in Delft, Cape Town, and observed by motion-activated, time-lapse remote photography to record scavenger species and activity. A rapid increase in the decomposition rate was observed due to Cape grey mongoose (Galerella pulverulenta) scavenging, with early skeletonisation reached by both experimental pigs by day 14, compared to the control remaining in advanced decomposition after 93 days. Mongoose is the primary scavenger in this habitat, and showed notable patterns of feeding behaviour, exclusively within daylight hours. Scavenging activity was only influenced by rainfall later in the cycle. This research provides knowledge on locally relevant decomposition patterns and highlights the necessity for PMI estimation methods to consider vertebrate scavengers. This may improve human skeletal identification in forensic cases. There is scope for expansion of this study, with an investigation of seasonal effects, the interaction between invertebrate and vertebrate activity, as well as, the effect of clothing on scavenger access.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2018.06.022
Uncontrolled keywords: Post-mortem interval, Decomposition, Porcine models, Cape Flats Dune Strandveld, Cape Town
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Depositing User: Devin Finaughty
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2019 13:52 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:10 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/78929 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Finaughty, Devin A.: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2585-1189
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