This research project compared decomposition rates among pigs, rabbits, and humans at the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility across three seasonal trials that spanned nearly 2 years.
Although nonhuman animal remains are often used in forensic research to develop methods to estimate the postmortem interval, systematic studies that directly validate animals as proxies for human decomposition are lacking. In the current study, the Total Body Score (TBS ) method was used to quantify decomposition changes and calculate the postmortem interval (PMI ) in accumulated degree days (ADD ). Decomposition trajectories were analyzed by comparing the estimated and actual ADD for each seasonal trial and by fuzzy cluster analysis. The cluster analysis demonstrated that the rabbits formed one group while pigs and humans, although more similar to each other than either to rabbits, still showed important differences in decomposition patterns. The decomposition trends show that neither nonhuman model captured the pattern, rate, and variability of human decomposition. (publisher abstract modified)