My former post was Jerry Payne’s time lapse movie of the decomposition of a baby pig from the mid 1960s. Here he looks back and gives his own account of his research.
Dr. Jerry A Payne’s comments on his breakthrough research at Clemson University on insect succession in dead animals. His 1960s project was the first “detailed” study of insect succession in animal decomposition and the first with the pig as the model. The significance of the pig is that it closely approximates the human body (skin, body hair, size etc.) so the data generated could be used in modern forensic science to approximate the time of human deaths. Jerry’s work is featured in a 2001 book by Jessica Snyder Sachs titled “Corpse: Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to Pinpoint the Time of Death”.
Dr. Jerry Payne’s time lapse movie of the decomposition of a baby pig. This is truely great stuff. Jerry Payne was way ahead of his time when it comes to studying the process of decomposition.
The technique of time-lapse photography is employed to illustrate the rapid removal of carrion (4 days reduced to approximately 6 minutes). The film demonstrates the sequence of tissue destruction and the role of insects in the ultimate dismemberment of the pig carcass and soil movement. The pink and purple beads were added to show the intense activities of the insects in moving the carcass and soil.
Payne writes…”My study was the first “detailed” study of succession in animal decomposition and the first with the pig as the model. The significance of the pig is that it closely approximates the human body (skin, body hair, size etc.) so the data generated could be used in modern forensic science to approximate the time of human deaths. At that time it was simply not possibly (moral/ethical/legal concerns) to perform decompositon studies with human corpses, I know because I tried and was denied. Even so there were many instances where some concerned person buried my research pigs.”
The pigs used in the experiment were dead when Jerry Payne picked them up from local farmers. Mama pigs (sows) often lay down on their tiny piglets and crush them. This was very common on small farms and led to the invention and deployment of farrowing pens(birthing pens) where the sow is contained and the piglets have a heated space where they are not in danger of being crushed.
Flies have four life stages: adult (the fly), egg, larva (the maggot) and pupa. Maggots crawl into dark, secluded places to pupate (the stage where they undergo the transformation from maggot to adult). Since the maggots are white or cream colored they are easily seen and taken by predators. Going undergroundand away from the carcass offers protection from uv light and predators and allows them seclusion to pupate. This pupal stage is immobile. Maggots don’t have to burrow into the soil as they could easily conceal themselves in leaf litter or any decayed organic material.
The original 16mm film is archived in the Human Studies Film Archive of the Smithsonian Institute
Ever wondered what would happen in your own home if you were taken away, and everything inside was left to rot? The answer is revealed in this fascinating programme, which explores the strange and surprising science of decay.
For two months in summer 2011, a glass box containing a typical kitchen and garden was left to rot in full public view within Edinburgh Zoo. In this resulting documentary, presenter Dr George McGavin and his team use time-lapse cameras and specialist photography to capture the extraordinary way in which moulds, microbes and insects are able to break down our everyday things and allow new life to emerge from old.
Decay is something that many of us are repulsed by. But as the programme shows, it’s a process that’s vital in nature. And seen in close up, it has an unexpected and sometimes mesmerising beauty.
Velkommen til min blog om neurovidenskab, medicin og sundhedsvæsen i fortid, nutid og fremtid.
Emnevalget er udelukkende styret af mine mange forskellige interesser, men jeg håber, at også andre vil kunne få lidt glæde af mine skriverier.
Jeg er mag.art i litteraturvidenskab og har prøvet lidt af hvert lige fra at forske i oldgræske mundtlige fortælletraditioner til it-supporter, webdesigner, direktionssekretær og værftsbisse.
De sidste par år har jeg haft noget af et drømmejob som driftsleder for sundhedsinformatik på Afdeling for Klinisk Biokemi og Farmakologi på OUH. Fra denne min pind vil jeg her betragte og kommentere verden omkring mig: Hvor kommer vi fra, og hvor er vi på vej hen.