Faculty Publications

Title

Waxing grave about adipocere: Soft tissue change in an aquatic context

Document Type

Conference

Keywords

Adipocere, Fatty acids, Forensic anthropology, Forensic science, Inhumation in water, Postmortem interval, Saponification

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of Forensic Sciences

Volume

52

Issue

2

First Page

294

Last Page

301

Abstract

When postmortem environmental conditions are "just right," according to the "Goldilocks Phenomenon," soft tissues (and associated fatty acids) are converted into and preserved as adipocere. To better understand this conversion process and the development of adipocere three human cadavers were immersed in outside, water-filled pits for over 3 months to observe adipocere formation in an underwater context simulating actual field conditions. Recordings of environmental conditions showed that temperatures were between 21°C and 45°C, a range sufficient for the growth of Clostridium perfringens. Chemical analysis of liquid and tissue samples revealed an increase in palmitic acid and decrease in oleic acid. This study tracked the remarkable gross morphological changes that can occur in human bodies subjected to an aquatic postmortem environment. The results support the "Goldilocks Phenomenon" and substantiate previous findings that the presence of bacteria and water is crucial for adipocere to form. Copyright © 2006 by American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

Original Publication Date

3-1-2007

DOI of published version

10.1111/j.1556-4029.2006.00362.x

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