Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



While the general biological processes of decomposition are known to forensic anthropologists, data on aquatic decomposition is in need of refinement. Water composition varies in mineral content, temperature, flow rate, and scavengers; each of these elements can have an effect on the rate of decomposition. This study specifically focuses on the effects of river flow rates on decomposition by comparing the rate of decay of three feral pigs (Sus scrofa) on land (control specimen), in faster flowing water, and in slower flowing water. The hypothesis states that the pig placed in the faster section of the river will decompose more quickly due to increased water flow which would cause the flesh to deteriorate more quickly. Three feral pigs weighing approximately 100 pounds each were deposited at their respective research sites on the Amite River at Galvez Landing in Prairieville, Louisiana. Each pig was protected from large scavengers by a thick wire cage equipped with a water temperature data logger. The river subjects were secured to the bank by an industrial chain kept afloat by boat bumpers. Daily visits to the site revealed that the control pig was skeletonized in two weeks and both water pigs were reduced to a few bones by the end of three weeks. Maggot activity and the presence of fish differed between the two water specimens, but the pigs decomposed at similar rates. Based on the conditions in this study, the hypothesis was rejected as the observed river flow rates did not seem to impact the decomposition rates of the pigs. Further studies with stronger velocity differences should be performed to determine the rate at which water flow does impact decomposition. This study indicates that each environment is distinct and caution must be taken when managing aquatic forensic cases.



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Committee Chair

Brophy, Juliet

Available for download on Saturday, February 23, 2019