Disarticulation sequences and scattering patterns in temperate southeastern Australia

Alyce Clare Cameron*, Marc Oxenham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The effects of scavenging vertebrates and invertebrates on the processes of carcase disarticulation and skeletal scattering have been limited methodologically. This pilot study used controlled animal model research over three months during late autumn/early winter in temperate southeastern Australia to generate disarticulation sequences and skeletal scattering patterns. Four Sus scrofa (White hybrid) placed on the natural ground surface outdoors were subjected to two treatments, caged for two weeks and uncaged for the experimental phase, and observed as they decomposed, disarticulated and scattered. There was a similar disarticulation sequence among the four carcases, regardless of treatments. Ribs, cervical and thoracic vertebrae and the cranium disarticulated early in the sequence, while the forelimbs, hind-limbs, rump and lumbar vertebrae disarticulated later. The scattered skeletal material consisted mostly of back/chest elements. It is concluded that the differing disarticulation sequences between this study and published accounts is related to the effects of the invertebrates both on the scavenging behaviour of vertebrates and the process of disarticulation. The implications for forensic investigations involving scavenged remains include the ability to improve search and relocation methods, time-since-death estimation and a greater understanding of the processes occurring after death.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-211
Number of pages15
JournalAustralian Journal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number2
Early online date13 Mar 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Animal models
  • Disarticulation
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Scattering
  • Scavenging


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