Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



This research was designed to document the decompositional and behavioral patterns and activities of arthropods colonizing child-sized remains, as observed by field sampling and 24-hour, high resolution video surveillance. The purpose of this research was to test the relationship between delays in arthropod colonization of child-sized remains and climatic conditions. Between March and June 2004, the remains of two child-sized pigs (approximately 11 kilograms) were deposited in an isolated wooded region in a suburban area of Virginia. The sites were secluded, approximately 83 yards from any dwellings. The pigs were placed on the surface: one was clothed, the other was unclothed. Wire cages were placed over them to prevent larger scavengers from consuming the specimens. Two high resolution video cameras were set up utilizing an infrared light source for night viewing. The cameras were set to record on a 24-hour basis. Taping was conducted every day throughout the period. Remains were also physically monitored every day, arthropods collected, observations noted, and direct temperature and humidity readings taken with a psychrometer at the experimental sites. Data for the macro-environment were collected from the U.S. Marine Corps Meteorology and Oceanographic Division, which provided hourly data on wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity, sky cover, and weather observations. Two replicates of the study were conducted. Tapes were reviewed to document the number of arthropods visiting the sites, as well as species and activity. Inter-rater reliability was performed to ensure species documentation was accurate. Results of this study demonstrate the relationship between weather and delays in arthropod colonization. For both replicates, rainy, overcast weather conditions delayed colonization even though temperatures were above established thresholds of activity. This study also showed the effect of arthropods’ diurnal predilections. Additionally, it further highlighted the interspecies and intraspecies competition among insects for viable food sources and demonstrated exclusion and succession. Vertebrate scavenging was a factor even though all the specimens were secured in wire cages, as vertebrates successfully removed specimens from the cages. Results of this research reinforce the need for careful review of all factors when considering post mortem interval estimations.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Mary Manhein