Decomposition and insect succession of clothed and unclothed carcasses in Western Australia
The effect of clothing on carcass decomposition and patterns of insect succession onto remains were investigated in two separate years during autumn in Western Australia. The progression of decomposition differed between clothed and unclothed carcasses in both years of the study. The presence of clothing markedly prolonged the wet decay stage in both years with larval feeding occurring across the moist skin surface underneath clothing, as well as within and under the carcasses. Ambient temperatures were higher in the second year of the study and corresponded to marginally faster rates of decay throughout decomposition. Within years, insect arrival and oviposition were largely consistent between clothed and unclothed carcasses with a few notable exceptions. The green blow fly, Lucilia sericata Meigen (Diptera: Calliphoridae) oviposited one day earlier on clothed than unclothed carcasses in both years of the study. The black carrion fly,Australophyra rostrata Robineau-Desvoidy, (Diptera: Muscidae) colonised clothed carcasses in two distinct waves of succession but only one wave of ovipoistion was observed on unclothed carcasses in either year. Correspondingly, clothed carcasses supported larval feeding by A. rostrata for a longer duration than unclothed carcasses. Finally, dipteran larval masses were more widely distributed across the carcass surface and were present for a longer period of time on clothed carcasses than on unclothed carcasses in both years. Forensically relevant data detailing the seasonal pattern of insect succession onto clothed and unclothed decomposing remains in Western Australia are reported.
Keywords: Forensic entomology, Succession, Decomposition, Clothing, Post-mortem interval