A (dead) pig in the city

There's a dead body behind the science museum. Insects are rapidly consuming the mystery corpse. Maggots pulse and squirm in the eyes and nostrils, beetles gnaw at leathery skin, and flies gorge themselves on putrid flesh. Not so long ago, this mysterious corpse was pink-cheeked, healthy, and … oinking.

The point of the pig

Pigs are a lot like people in some ways. With similar organs, muscles and bones, all beneath mostly hairless skin, pigs make reasonable substitutes for human bodies. They have been used as military and medical test subjects for generations, and now they are playing an important part in the scientific study of what happens to us after we die.

Knowing when a pig died, scientists will gather data on the stages of its decay. Criminal investigators can then use this information to reveal a time and place of death when they find a human body in similar condition.

Corpse Island

Like a grisly little island, a dead body has a slightly different climate and insect community from the surrounding environment. Flies are the first to arrive at the “island,” laying eggs in body openings, and consuming fluids from the moist tissue. Ants and beetles will then come to prey on the fly eggs and maggots. As the body begins to dry, maggots disappear and other beetle species will move in to chew at the toughening flesh.

The specific combination of insects present can indicate the age of the island—when the body died. Depending on where the body is located, though, things can play out differently: changing weather can cause a body to dry out very quickly or to not dry at all, and if a body is buried, or under water, some kinds of bugs can be prevented from reaching it. Scientists observe bodies in different environments to account for these variables.

Big pig: It may not look like anyone you know, but a pig like this one can make a decent substitute for a human in forensic science experiments.
Big pig: It may not look like anyone you know, but a pig like this one can make a decent substitute for a human in forensic science experiments.Courtesy johnmuk


Blue bottle fly: The combination of insects on a body can indicate how old it is, and sometimes where it came from. Here, blowflies prepare to lay eggs, while a bee investigates for something to eat.
Blue bottle fly: The combination of insects on a body can indicate how old it is, and sometimes where it came from. Here, blowflies prepare to lay eggs, while a bee investigates for something to eat.Courtesy SirArmstrong

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Jackie Rabideau's picture
Jackie Rabideau says:

Scientists must get paid a lot, because I wouldn't want the job of studying a dead pig.

posted on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 11:30pm
atumis's picture
atumis says:

Your right who wouldn't want to study a DEAD pig

posted on Wed, 11/26/2008 - 2:38pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I would'nt mind studying a dead pig...but thats prolly why i want to be a forensic scientist

posted on Thu, 11/03/2011 - 10:28am
Corrin's picture
Corrin says:

That is so true!
you would have to pay me a lot of money to work on a dead pig, of dead anything.
But its good that they are researching these things on already dead animals instead of humans. I like that they are not killing the pigs to do the research.
But its still nasty, but its also good for our benefit.

posted on Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:53pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I definitly would like to study dead pigs, and i would do it for free!

posted on Wed, 03/17/2010 - 11:35am
Ellen Gibbs's picture
Ellen Gibbs says:

you are right. I wouldn't touch, or even LOOK at a dead pig if my life depended on it......... Of course i guess i do every time i see bacon. :-D

posted on Sat, 04/10/2010 - 2:19pm
Angela's picture
Angela says:

this CSI experement was amazing!! i luved it! i liked how we could solve it on our own n stuff it was reall kool

posted on Sun, 11/23/2008 - 3:30pm
marilyn colsch's picture
marilyn colsch says:

Using dead animals for forensic research is an awsome endevor. I have always been interested in forensic science and always enyoy learning the lastest technology. I think this is a great learning opportunity. (just try and keep your lunch down)

posted on Tue, 11/25/2008 - 2:38pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

that dead pig thing is weird.

posted on Wed, 11/26/2008 - 12:09pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i think the pig is ugly and fattt! why are they sougly

posted on Wed, 12/03/2008 - 1:42pm
Thor's picture
Thor says:

It appears to me that the pig loses quite a bit of weight over the duration of the experiment. However, I wouldn't recommend this type of diet.

posted on Wed, 12/03/2008 - 1:57pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

the pig is cute

posted on Thu, 12/11/2008 - 2:00pm
sinwan's picture
sinwan says:

good experiment i just really love this keyboard!!!

posted on Wed, 12/31/2008 - 6:09pm
tj hooker's picture
tj hooker says:

I think the pig is an excellent experiment to show us what really happens. Jon Bonjovi for President

posted on Fri, 01/02/2009 - 12:09pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

that is really weird

posted on Sat, 01/03/2009 - 9:41pm
tyana w's picture
tyana w says:

i fell bad for the pig

posted on Sun, 01/04/2009 - 2:31pm
nancyphetsamone's picture
nancyphetsamone says:

i think that its interesting that it has been use as military

posted on Wed, 01/21/2009 - 1:21am
Brittany_Todd's picture
Brittany_Todd says:

I thought this was a great experiment! Very interesting :)

★BRITTANY ☠BONES☠ TODD★

posted on Wed, 04/22/2009 - 7:52pm
porcupine's picture
porcupine says:

Really gross,really disturbing,dont like thinking of myself rotting like that one day, yet I couldnt turn away, watched in disgusted fascination till the end.

posted on Fri, 04/09/2010 - 1:43pm

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