Does the size or mass of a body affect the time it takes for rigor mortis to sets in? For example: compare a 300 pound man to 100 pound girl to 5 pound animal.

  • $\begingroup$ My work with mice suggests it can happen in less than 10 minutes, but I haven't had to euthanize any other types of animals. $\endgroup$ – user137 Jan 17 '15 at 2:56

One of the main factors that impacts rigor mortis is temperature. Basically, a smaller body would slow down the metabolic processes behind rigor more substantially. Also, one of the first things that happens in rigor is the stiffening of muscles. An increase in muscle mass would increase the time for rigor as well.

Refer to these links: wikipedia and another that talks about rigor mortis within the scope of forensic pathology.

Hope that helps!


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  • $\begingroup$ I think that a larger body mass with a corresponding smaller surface area to volume ratio would decrease the time for rigor mortis to set it since the body stays warmer for longer. $\endgroup$ – canadianer Jan 19 '15 at 6:27
  • $\begingroup$ Yes I saw that but previously you said that a larger body mass increases the time for rigor mortis to set in. $\endgroup$ – canadianer Jan 19 '15 at 7:25
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    $\begingroup$ @canadianer - thanks for catching that! I edited my answer. $\endgroup$ – swetharevanur Jan 19 '15 at 7:27

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