Decomposing pig carcasses have helped criminologists gain a better understanding of how a human body decomposes hundreds of meters underwater.

The study from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, revealed to the researchers that the process of decay in deep waters is significantly different from what occurs in shallower parts of the Pacific.

Forensic experts Gail Anderson and Lynne Bell strapped the bodies of several pig subjects to metal grates, and then submerged them 300 meters (984 feet) through submarine, to be deposited underneath a monitoring device.

They discovered differences in the results: the pigs' bodies lasted weeks to months when deposited near the surface of the ocean, versus decomposing in as few as three days at 300 meters (984 feet). In a video footage, a colony of sea lice or amphipods swarmed the carcasses and drove crabs, spot prawns, and other scavengers away.

"[Four to five inch layers of amphipods] just inhaled - basically ate - the entire carcass, inside out," says Anderson in a Canadian Press report.

She added that sometimes a fish would get its fair share of the body, which would have its skin intact. The fish would go through the orifices and remove all soft tissue in only up to four days.

The pre-installed monitoring devices, part of the VENUS observatory network that streams on-location video real time, also senses a sharp rise in oxygen levels around the feeding location, which researchers speculated was a repellant against other potential feeders.

This has not been seen before, Anderson said of this part of the findings published  March 1 in the journal PLOS ONE. The feeding frenzy among huge numbers of marine animas appeared to deplete water of oxygen.

This deoxygenation, she pointed out, may be combined with noise projections from the mass of animals to one day aid investigators in finding missing bodies at depth.

"We're not there yet. But maybe in the future," Anderson adds.

The research is hoped to improve the time frame for recovering human remains underwater, which in turn helps in the daily work of coroner or autopsy services.

But why are pigs useful in this research? In forensic science, these animals are commonly used as a proxy for humans due to similarities such as in torso size, level of hairlessness, and omnivorous diet, which affects the gut bacteria.

The researchers hope to bring their experiment to farther waters of up to 6,561feet in depth.

Photo: WorldSkills UK | Flickr

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