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J Forensic Sci. 1989 Jul;34(4):894-901.

Canid modification of human remains: implications for time-since-death estimations.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


Time-since-death estimations are usually based on physical decomposition of the corpse, insect succession, and contextual associations. The rates of change and succession are based on decomposition studies, most of which control access of scavengers to the corpse; however, many naturally exposed corpses are subject to scavenger modification. These modifications change the rate of decomposition, the pattern of insect succession, and the context of associations, thus altering estimations of time since death. A controlled feeding study with captive wolves and road-killed deer is pertinent to understanding canid scavenging and how scavenging may alter postmortem changes. During feeding, the wolves commonly dismember and devour the deer in a predictable sequence. Although there are some variations in the usual sequence, the carcass is always moved, and skeletal elements are separated, diminished in size and scattered. Scavenging must, therefore, be considered in estimating time since death.

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