Decomposition - glossary and references

A glossary of key words and definitions relating to decomposition, including a list of references used in researching material about decomposition.


  • aerobic - the ability of organisms or tissues to function only with the presence of free oxygen.
  • ammonia (NH3) - a colourless, pungent, water soluble gas made up of nitrogen and hydrogen.
  • anaerobic - the ability of organisms or tissues to function without oxygen.
  • biochemical pathway - chain of chemical reactions that occur in living things to produce a chemical compound.
  • instar- a stage in the development of an insect larva between two moults. Each species of insect has a fixed number of moults.
  • lactic acid - an organic acid produced in mammals during the breakdown of glucose when oxygen is in short supply.
  • mausoleum - an above-ground tomb.
  • ovipositor - a specialised organ for depositing eggs in female insects.


  • Anderson, G.S. 2000. Minimum and maximum development rates of some forensically important Calliphoridae (Diptera). Journal of Forensic Sciences. 45: 824-832.
  • Bornemissza, G.F. 1957. An analysis of arthropod succession in carrion and the effect of its decomposition on the soil fauna. Australian Journal of Zoology. 5: 1-12.
  • Fuller, M.E. 1934. The insect inhabitants of carrion: a study in animal ecology. Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Bulletin No. 82. 63 pp.
  • Kamal, A.S. 1958. Comparative study of thirteen species of sarcosaprophagous Calliphoridae and Sarcophagidae (Diptera) I. Bionomics. Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 51: 261-270.
  • Morovic-Budak, A. 1965. Experiences in the process of putrefaction in corpses buried in earth. Medicine, Science and the Law. 5: 40-43.
  • Rodriguez, WC. and Bass, WM. (1985). Decomposition of buried bodies and methods that may aid in their location. Journal of Forensic Sciences. 30: 836-852.
  • Spennemann, D.H.R and Franke, B. 1995. Decomposition of buried human bodies and associated death scene materials on coral atolls in the tropical Pacific. Journal of Forensic Science. 40: 356-367.

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