11 October 2010

Taphonomy of a deer carcass

If you happen to be rummaging around in wooded areas in College Park, Maryland, you may find a deer skull or a leg bone with my name and the date 7 September 2010 written on them. I'd appreciate it if you didn't take either bone, but let me know of their locations.

This all started last August when I noticed a stench permeating the air while walking to work one hot morning. There was a white tailed deer carcass nearby. The next morning I returned with my camera, but the stench had gone. It turned out that someone had covered the carcass with soil. I did take a few pictures for the record anyway.

Later, I figured this would be a good opportunity to carry out a taphonomical study. How long would the carcass take to turn into bones? What would happen to bones afterwards? I started visiting the burial every few weeks to check on it.

About a month later following some heavy rains, I saw that some bones were sticking out of the soil. The decomposition of the flesh had indeed been quick.

Then I started wondering if bone-eating scavengers would come and take the bones away. So, I went there one day last week and wrote my name on the skull and a leg bone both of which were partially exposed. The idea is that if either bone is removed, I may be able to locate and identify them in the nearby woods.

Updates may be posted.

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