June 5, 2016

Sea lice mob devours pig from the inside out

Finding a dead body in the ocean may be gruesome, but for forensic scientists it can also be perplexing. Although the way a body decomposes on land is well understood, little is known about how human remains fare underwater.

Now a pioneering experiment lead by forensic scientist Gail Anderson from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, is using dead pigs as a model for humans to gain insight. In this video, a pig carcass is tracked as it turns to bones in the ocean, capturing the scavengers that visit the body. Sharks are unable to tuck in since it's enclosed, giving sea lice exclusive access to the remains. They enter orifices in droves to feast on the animal from the inside out and congregate on the cage bars to prevent other arthropods, like shrimp, from getting a bite. "By the end of the fourth day, the sea lice had left and the pigs were reduced to bones," says Anderson.

Shrimp arrive to pick at the skeleton, eventually removing all the cartilage. The team then recovered the bones which, strangely, were jet black for a period of 48 hours. "This is something that has never been seen before," says Lynne Bell, a member of the team. "Colleagues are working to identify the micro-organisms collected close to the bone, which may help to identify the unique chemistry of the change."

Stick around till the end for a surprise visitor. :)

Interested in the science behind decay? Check this out;
After Life: The Science of Decay


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