What is the process of decomposition?
July 14th, 2020
Decomposition begins several minutes after death, with a process called autolysis, or self-digestion.
Soon after the heart stops beating, cells become deprived of oxygen, and their acidity increases as the toxic by-products of chemical reactions begin to accumulate inside them. Enzymes start to digest cell membranes and then leak out as the cells break down. This usually begins in the liver, which is enriched in enzymes, and in the brain, which has high water content; eventually, though, all other tissues and organs begin to break down in this way.
Damaged blood cells spill out of broken vessels and, aided by gravity, settle in the capillaries and small veins, discoloring the skin. Body temperature also begins to drop, until it has acclimatized to its surroundings.
Then, rigor mortis – the stiffness of death – sets in, starting in the eyelids, jaw and neck muscles, before working its way into the trunk and then the limbs. In life, muscle cells contracts and relax due to the actions of two filamentous proteins, called actin and myosin, which slide along each other. After death, the cells are depleted of their energy source, and the protein filaments become locked in place. This causes the muscles to become rigid and locks the joints.
July 20th, 2020
How long it takes for a corpse to get from flesh to bone and how long it takes can vary drastically depending on the corpse’s environment. Learn more about the impact environment has on a corpse in our video, So Many Ways to Decay! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9t28IYEprU