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I was walking past some power lines today, and a flying fox (like a small furry bat, for those who don't know Australian fauna) had grabbed onto two adjacent power lines, completing a circuit, and as such died due to electrocution.

That got me thinking about whether or not the animal would decay in this situation. As far as I understand it, decay is caused by bacteria and other micro-organisms. Could they survive in this high-voltage environment? If not, will this poor flying fox be perfectly preserved until the next blackout occurs?

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    $\begingroup$ even if all the bacteria on and in the flying fox die, as soon as he hits the ground there will be plenty more organisms joining. $\endgroup$ – vanao veneri Nov 22 '16 at 8:53
  • $\begingroup$ That is really interesting thought! I've read about microorganisms that can live in extreme conditions like strongly acidic/ alkaline/ salty/ boiling-hot environment; but never read about electrified environment. Thanks for asking!! $\endgroup$ – Always Confused Nov 22 '16 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ probably the OP is asking if it is not grounded; i.e. electric current continue to flow through that organism, then what will happen. $\endgroup$ – Always Confused Nov 22 '16 at 8:56
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    $\begingroup$ Environemental factors will degrade it (wind-water etc.). For the decaying part, good question sir. But from what I know, electricity will follow a certain shortest path inside the body to close the circuit. The rest shouldnt be electrified and bacteria will be alive. $\endgroup$ – Dart Feld Nov 22 '16 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Always Confused "but never read about electrified environment". Bioelectrochemistry is actually a field of research. Microbes can exchange electrons with solid electrodes. If interested, you can search for Microbial Fuel Cells or Microbial Electrolysis Cells. Of course it's rather low voltages and currents, but still, there are a lot of exciting applications. $\endgroup$ – Flo Nov 22 '16 at 18:44
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Environemental factors would degrade it (wind-water etc.).

But from what I know, electricity will follow a certain shortest path inside the body to close the circuit. The rest shouldnt be electrified and bacteria will be alive.

Bacteria are indeed not resistant to high levels of electricity and would die of it. The current would need to traverse the Entirety of the animal to kill every single bacteria which is highly improbable. Leave one alone, it will reproduce fast.

From what I researched, a constant electrical current of the power of an electric line would cook the animal in a short time. The flying fox you saw probably didnt have live current traversing him anymore and died from a quick jolt (this is a guess only).

Even in the extreme case that 100% of the bacteria would die, the dead animal would be recolonized by bacteria really fast. Even in the wires, wind or animals would carry bacteria.

Power lines are probably protected from arcing this way through anything that could touch them. Imagine if they werent, trees touching them would burn, shoes you throw and hang on them would be calcinated etc.

Off-topic: Are you sure he wasn't only sleeping on his improvised power-line hammock ? :P

Sources:

Conduction of Electrical Current to and Through the Human Body: A Review

Effects of high electric fields on microorganisms I. Killing of bacteria and yeasts

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