I have a photo of a decomposing dog which is in a water logged environment. My peers and I are debating how long that body has been decomposing. They are saying it is at least a year old. I however think it's much more recent (1-3 months).

My understanding is that when a body is put into a wet environment either partially submerged or fully it speeds up the decomposition process provided the water is not lacking oxygen such as if it was deep on the ocean floor.

The carcass has its skull fully decomposed, which I think is due to the bacteria rich water having more access to surface area through the various orifices and also the skull having much less flesh than the rest of the body.

The torso looks for the most part intact, and I don't see any bloating from gas buildup (not sure when and how long such a feature would be present), and there appears to be a pink area which could be muscle.

Would these features be typical of a recent death in this type of environment or am I overlooking some other important processes that could be speeding up or slowing down the decomposition?

Photo (image unboxed in case graphic for some viewers)

  • $\begingroup$ Bugs, scavengers, microbes, time, the environment... a lot of factors at play in decomposition, for example: Forensic entomological decomposition. $\endgroup$
    – CKM
    Aug 18 '15 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ Could you clarify the question a little? Are you trying to find out how long ago this dog died, or are you after a recognised method for estimating the "age" of a corpse in this specific type of wet environment? $\endgroup$
    – rg255
    Jan 16 '16 at 10:56
  • $\begingroup$ I'm suggesting that this question as off-topic because I find it unclear what the user is asking and I'm not sure forensic methods are on topic. $\endgroup$
    – rg255
    Jan 16 '16 at 10:58
  • $\begingroup$ @rg255 How is forensics not related to biology? There is a whole area of forensics that involves biology see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forensic_biology $\endgroup$ Jan 16 '16 at 13:52
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure that the photo alone is enough information to give a precise answer. I'm voting to close for "unclear question" reason, but I enjoy the idea of forensic puzzles for biologists to solve! $\endgroup$
    – James
    Jan 18 '16 at 7:46

It depends on the temperature of the environment as well. In the heat of summer and in a watery environment, I can verify through unfortunate personal reference that stuff can decompose very quickly. I honestly didn't look at the image, but judging by your description it can't have been there a year. There would be nothing left. Hungry bacteria and decomposers would have left nothing but bones by then. I would say your guess is more on target.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Can you please add some references to your answer? $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Aug 18 '15 at 20:32
  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately in my case it's simple experience living in a rural/wooded area :/ Occasionally we have to do cleanup. $\endgroup$
    – chauxvive
    Aug 19 '15 at 2:12

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