The initial changes of fat deposits during the decomposition of human and pig remains

Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Forensic Sciences, 2009, 54 (1), pp. 195 - 201
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The early stages of adipocere formation in both pig and human adipose tissue in aqueous environments have been investigated. The aims were to determine the short-term changes occurring to fat deposits during decomposition and to ascertain the suitability of pigs as models for human decomposition. Subcutaneous adipose tissue from both species after immersion in distilled water for up to six months was compared using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. Changes associated with decomposition were observed, but no adipocere was formed during the initial month of decomposition for either tissue type. Early-stage adipocere formation in pig samples during later months was detected. The variable time courses for adipose tissue decomposition were attributed to differences in the distribution of total fatty acids between species. Variations in the amount of sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium were also detected between species. The study shows that differences in total fatty acid composition between species need to be considered when interpreting results from experimental decomposition studies using pigs as human body analogs.
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