Although various animal species have been used for decades as proxies for human remains in decomposition studies, few studies have sought to validate their use in research aimed at estimating the postmortem interval, so this study examined 45 pig, rabbit, and human subjects placed in three seasonal trials at the Anthropology Research Facility.
In an earlier study, the authors found that overall decomposition trends did vary between species that could be due to differential insect and scavenger behavior. The current study examined whether scavenger behavior differed by carrion species. Daily photographs, game camera photographs, written observations, and Total Body Score (TBS) documented scavenging and decomposition changes. Results show that raccoons were the most often observed vertebrate scavenger, that scavenging was most extensive in winter, and that certain human subjects were preferred over other humans and all nonhuman subjects. Finally, scavenging activity greatly reduced the accuracy of postmortem interval estimates based on TBS. (publisher abstract modified)