Animals are complex creatures. The animal can perform such tasks as reproduction, digestion, and simply movement. This is leaving out the more basic functions of respiration, circulation, and various maintenance functions. All of these processes are very complex, from the superficial all the way to the chemical level. Decomposition is one of these processes. It is common belief in our society to believe that death is an event, but that is underestimating its complexity. Death itself is also a process, that is to say, not all cells die at once (Gill-King 1997). Initial inspection after death reveals little change, however the chemical reactions that drive decomposition have already begun, and the results will soon lead to a state of highly efficient chemical cleanup, which is offensive to the senses. Ultimately the lack of oxygen drives these changes (Gill-King 1997), resulting in a state of cellular anarchy, beautiful in its rampant destruction. Like all chemical reactions, decomposition is highly influenced by the ecology of the body, via temperature, humidity, and other such conditions.
In this paper I will address decomposition, and the factors that are involved in its progression. I will begin by describing the chemical and ultrastructural aspects, namely, the physical and chemical constraints to the decompositional process, cell death, and putrefaction. Then I will go on to note the changes in soft tissue, being visible with the naked eye. The aspects of soft tissue change that I will discuss include early and late postmortem changes and modifications to tissue. Lastly I will describe the science of entomology and its importance to the decompositional process. I will provide a background to the science, a discussion of environmental constraints to entomological activity, and end with a discussion of flies and their life cycle.
The chemistry of living cells are maintained at... [continues]
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