Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



To compare decomposition potential variability in geographically distinct sites, this project deposited six pigs of comparable size to adult humans in pairs at three sites within southern Louisiana. These sites were: the east bank of the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge, “Red Pass” in the Bird Foot Delta near Venice, Louisiana, and the Grande Isle and Grand Terre Islands in the Gulf of Mexico. After partial decomposition of the three pairs of remains, one pig was placed onto land to simulate beaching by tidal action or recession of flood water. Each pig was allowed to continue decomposition. Despite geographic distance between the three sites, the Fresh stage lasted less than one day (Day 1), and the Bloat stage lasted six-seven days (Day 2-Day 7 or 8). The length of time remains lasted in the Active stage of decomposition varied with stage delineation becoming blurred in the aquatic pigs. Scavenging of remains was documented at every site. Alligators scavenged remains beginning on Day 9, completely removing the pigs on Day 10. Fish, including striped mullet (Mugil cephalus) schooled in masse around the pigs at Grande Isle, a new phenomenon to the forensic literature. Coyote (Canis latrans) scavenged the remains of the land pig at the Baton Rouge site, scattering bones and leaving evidence including a musk odor, footprints, and feces. The intensity of insect activity at the three sites varied, with the Baton Rouge site containing the most flies on the remains at a given time. The fly species present at the sites were largely congruent, with Chrysomya megacephala, Lucilia sericata, and Cochliomyia macellaria representing nearly all of the flies captured during the Fresh, Bloat, and Active stages. This study also shows that it is possible for feral pigs to be utilized by researchers as human surrogates of comparable weight by forensic researchers.



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Student has submitted appropriate documentation to restrict access to LSU for 365 days after which the document will be released for worldwide access.

Committee Chair

Manhein, Mary H