Have vultures fooled murder investigators?

Bodies decompose on a body farm.

As anyone who watches one of the many crime scene investigation TV shows, scientists can determine when a victim is murdered by examining the evidence left by a decomposing body.

A body with less flesh on its bones is assumed to be a body that has been dead for a longer time. That's how time of death is determined, which makes a big difference in figuring out who committed the murder.

But pathologists have not taken vultures into account.

In a controlled experiment at a "body farm" in Texas, forensic anthropologists are watching corpses lying in a field and discovering how vultures are scavenging on the bodies.

They've discovered that a flock of vultures can strip the flesh from a corpse in hours, and that vultures can jump up and down on a body, breaking ribs and fooling investigators into thinking this was trauma done by a beating.

Scientists hope their work will make better models that more accurately predict time of death.

- Texas Vulture Study Upends Forensics, ABC News>>
- Sally Mann>>
- "What Remains" by Sally Mann>>
- Photo is by Sally Mann from her book Body Farm.


  1. they're not pathologists... they are anthropologists. I'm a grad student here doing my thesis on this.

  2. Anonymous: I was quoting from the news articles which call them pathologists. Could the difference be that the forensic pathologists are the ones most often studying the remains at crime scenes, and they benefit from the work done by forensic anthropologists studying the decomposing bodies at the body farm? (I changed the above text to reflect this.)


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