Image: Stage 3: Putrefaction - 4 to 10 days after death
Stage 3: Putrefaction - 4 to 10 days after death. The pig has become bloated from the build up of gases within the body.
- R. Major
- © Australian Museum
State of decay
Bacteria break down tissues and cells, releasing fluids into body cavities. They often respire in the absence of oxygen (anaerobically) and produce various gases including hydrogen sulphide, methane, cadaverine and putrescine as by-products. People might find these gases foul smelling, but they are very attractive to a variety of insects.
The build up of gas resulting from the intense activity of the multiplying bacteria, creates pressure within the body. This pressure inflates the body and forces fluids out of cells and blood vessels and into the body cavity.
The young maggots move throughout the body, spreading bacteria, secreting digestive enzymes and tearing tissues with their mouth hooks. They move as a maggot mass benefiting from communal heat and shared digestive secretions.
The rate of decay increases, and the smells and body fluids that begin to eminate from the body attract more blowflies, flesh flies, beetles and mites. The later-arriving flies and beetles are predators, feeding on maggots as well as the decaying flesh. They are joined by parasitoid wasps that lay their eggs inside maggots and later, inside pupae.