Solving Crimes with the Necrobiome
This short video explores the stages of decomposition of animal bodies and shows how microorganisms found during the decomposition process can provide useful information for criminal investigators.
Death is the beginning of new life for the many microbes that take over our bodies after we die: a community known as the necrobiome. Scientists study these microbial communities and the activity that takes place in and around a corpse to better understand the process of decomposition. This research provides potentially useful tools for criminal investigators. Through forensic experiments, scientists have shown that it may be possible to estimate time of death by sequencing the DNA from the microbes found on and around decomposing bodies.
This video is part of the series I Contain Multitudes, hosted by science journalist Ed Yong.
body farm, crime scene investigation, decay, decomposition, forensic science, microbiome, nutrient cycle, postmortem interval, succession, thanatomicrobiome
Metcalf, Jessica L., Zhenjiang Zech Xu, Sophie Weiss, Simon Lax, Will Van Treuren, Embriette R. Hyde, Se Jin Song et al. “Microbial community assembly and metabolic function during mammalian corpse decomposition.” Science 351, 6269 (2016): 158–162. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aad2646.