Researchers at Texas State University’s forensic anthropology research facility, one of the country’s five “body farms,” have discovered that failure to take into account the role of vultures may have affected time of death calculations in homicide investigations. See Associated Press coverage here.
The scientists observed a flock of vultures reduce a corpse that had been laying in a field on the body farm for 37 days to skeletal remains within hours. The resulting absence of flesh and condition of the bones normally would lead investigators to conclude that the person had been dead for six months or longer. These observations call into question previous techniques for determining time of death that did not take the role of vultures into account. Additional research is on the role of vultures is planned.