31 August 2005

Of maggots and dead birds: a rotten story III

Warning for the squeamish and youngsters: this series of posts will have photographs and descriptions of a dead bird in various stages of decomposition.

Days 4 & 8

On day 4 (day 0 and days 2 and 3), the feeding frenzy had begun. There were many blow fly (Calliphoridae) maggots on and around the bird. After I opened the lid, several of them climbed up the sides and left. The bird’s skull was partially visible. The strong odor was very offensive.

I suspect the smaller maggots (yellow arrows) are younger than the larger maggots (orange arrow), although the smaller ones could belong to a different species. The picture below is a more enlarged look at both types of maggots. A small maggot is visible near the upper left hand corner.

After this climactic day, I did not check on the bird again until day 8. By then, all the flesh and skin had been consumed and only the bones and feathers were left. There were no maggots, but only a few ants. A microscopic examination would probably have revealed smaller arthropods feeding on the remnants, but I didn’t feel like bringing indoors the container, which still had an unpleasant, but much weakened, odor. If I ever repeat this experiment, I may consider setting up a microscope outdoors.

I will now attempt to recover and clean the bones of the bird in hopes of having a complete catbird skeleton.

The repulsiveness of maggots notwithstanding, did you know that the use of blow fly maggots is a medically accepted therapy for debriding (cleaning) infected and gangrenous wounds?

More information is available at the homepage of the Maggot Therapy Project.

decision of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concerning maggot therapy is here.


erica said...

Wow - I really enjoyed reading your blog. I was searching for some information concerning how long cicadas skins would stay intact and I stumbled across your site. Very intriguing - even for a non-science person like myself (a librarian). Thanks for blogging.

...Kat said...

yes I know that..... and leeches are back in business too

Tabib said...

Hi Aydin!
I got your blog's link from BESGroup Birding site.
Very good documentation.