Image: Stage 2: Initial decay - 0 to 3 days after death
Stage 2: Initial decay - 0 to 3 days after death
- R. Major
- © Australian Museum
State of decay
Although the body shortly after death appears fresh from the outside, the bacteria that before death were feeding on the contents of the intestine begin to digest the intestine itself. They eventually break out of the intestine and start digesting the surrounding internal organs. The body's own digestive enzymes (normally in the intestine) also spread through the body, contributing to its decomposition.
On an even smaller scale, enzymes inside individual cells are released when the cell dies. These enzymes break down the cell and its connections with other cells.
From the moment of death flies are attracted to bodies. Without the normal defences of a living animal, blowflies and house flies are able to lay eggs around wounds and natural body openings (mouth, nose, eyes, anus, genitalia). These eggs hatch and move into the body, often within 24 hours. The life cycle of a fly from egg to maggot to fly takes from two to three weeks. It can take considerably longer at low temperatures.