Ever wonder what happens when an animal dies? This video comes from the folks at Earth Unplugged, showing the decomposition process of a monitor lizard through an amazing time lapse video. A series of photographs were taken every minute over a long period of time, allowing the viewer to quickly experience something that would normally takes days or weeks to happen. Although the decay process is observed here in only 1 minute, the physical process actually took a total of 4.5 weeks!
With the help of maggots (fly larvae), beetles, and microbes (bacteria), the lizard decomposes to skin and bones passing through several stages of decay: (1) fresh, (2) bloat, (3) active decay, (4) advanced decay, and (5) skeletonization.
Please take note that this particular event occurred in a enclosed, contained environment for controlled photography purposes. Rate and process of decomposition can differ, strongly affected by many external factors: temperature, humidity, rain fall, access to body by insects (e.g., is the body buried?), access by scavengers (e.g., dogs, rodents), traumatic wounds, body size, and clothing, etc.
All of these factors must be taken into consideration to understand how a body decays. In the context of forensic anthropology this is of great importance, as it aids in estimating how much time has passed since a person’s death (postmortem interval).
*The lizard used in this film died of natural causes and was donated by a licensed and reputable source.