Title page for ETD etd-06092011-103357

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Jones, Audra Leigh
URN etd-06092011-103357
Title Animal Scavengers as Agents of Decomposition: The Postmortem Succession of Louisiana Wildlife
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department Geography & Anthropology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Tague, Robert Committee Chair
Chamberlain, Michael Committee Member
Saunders, Rebecca Committee Member
  • PMI
  • postmortem interval
  • taphonomy
  • forensic anthropology
  • wildlife
  • scavenging
  • biological anthropology
Date of Defense 2011-04-11
Availability unrestricted
Four adult pig carcasses were placed within a wildlife center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in order to determine what conditions animals utilize carrion and which animal species engage in scavenging. The cadavers were deposited without any protective covering and wildlife cameras were placed around the pigs in order to document animal scavenging. In two cases cameras showed that coyotes were the initial animal scavengers followed by opossums. In another case coyotes were inferred to have scavenged the pig due to discovering a similar pattern of disarticulation as compared to the previous two scenes. In the third case turkey vultures skeletonized the pig within twenty-four hours. In this case, the site had less tree cover than the other sites, thus making the cadaver more accessible to avian scavengers. In cases where coyotes interacted with the carrion, the skeletal remains were recovered in a linear distribution with the cranium in the original location of the body, the mandible a few feet away from the cranium in the direction of coyote movement and the remaining skeletal remains in line with the first two skeletal elements in the direction of movement. One bone was found with discernable animal gnaw markings. Because this bone was recovered in the late stages of decomposition I infer that carnivorous animals are more likely to gnaw on bones near or after full skeletonization of a body. Precipitation was found to be a determining factor in animal scavenging as animals did not interact with the cadavers on days when it rained on a day following a day when it rained.
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