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Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2015 Jun;11(2):202-7. doi: 10.1007/s12024-015-9667-7. Epub 2015 Mar 4.

Seasonal variation of postmortem microbial communities.

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Laboratory of Forensic Taphonomy, Forensic Sciences Unit, Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Chaminade University of Honolulu, Honolulu, HI, 96816, USA,


Body-associated microbes were recently shown to change significantly during decomposition, undergoing an ecological succession in experimental conditions using rodent and swine models. We investigated microbial succession in soils associated with swine carcasses under experimental field conditions in summer and winter. We demonstrate that these postmortem microbial communities change in a specific, reproducible fashion, and that soil microbes represent a significant component of the postmortem microbial community, contrary to widespread belief in forensic science. However, the effects of decomposition on soil microbial communities were different in summer and winter. We suggest that the microbial ecological succession will be useful in medicolegal death investigation; however, observations in winter might not be applicable to summer, which indicates a need for a greater understanding of the seasonality of decomposition.

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