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28 October 2022 Fall Decay Deceleration in Northern Latitudes: Merely a Matter of Cold?
Chloé Losier, Denis R. Boudreau, Kathleen LeBlanc, Jean-Philippe Michaud, Gaétan Moreau
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The decomposition of cadavers and large vertebrate carcasses is the result of complex processes primarily influenced by ambient temperatures. Thus, low temperatures can alter decomposition by curtailing tissue autolysis and bacterial decomposition, and by limiting insect activity contributing to necromass removal. In this study, we tested whether carcass decomposition rate is modulated not only directly by temperature and insect occurrence, but also indirectly by the mediation of interactions among insects by ambient temperature. To test this, a comparative analysis of the decomposition of domestic pig carcasses in summer and fall was conducted in Atlantic Canada. The results indicated that carcass decomposition standardized to account for seasonal differences was significantly decelerated in the fall as opposed to the summer during the later decomposition stages and was sometimes incomplete. Moreover, the arrival, presence, and departure of insects from carcasses during ecological succession differed between summer and fall. Necrodes surinamensis (Fabricius) (Coleoptera: Silphidae) and Creophilus maxillosus (Linnaeus) (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae) maintained higher abundances late during succession in the fall than in the summer and their abundance was related to a decline in decomposition rates, probably because these species feed on dipteran larvae promoting necromass removal. These results demonstrate the variability in response to environmental parameters of insects of forensic importance and support the idea that slowed decomposition in the fall may be exacerbated by changes in interspecific interactions among insects. Furthermore, these results suggest that successional studies of insects carried out in the summer have little forensic utility for cadavers found in cold weather conditions.

© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Entomological Society of America. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:
Chloé Losier, Denis R. Boudreau, Kathleen LeBlanc, Jean-Philippe Michaud, and Gaétan Moreau "Fall Decay Deceleration in Northern Latitudes: Merely a Matter of Cold?," Journal of Medical Entomology 60(1), 32-39, (28 October 2022).
Received: 27 July 2022; Accepted: 28 September 2022; Published: 28 October 2022

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forensic entomology
insect succession
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