Scavengers can significantly alter a forensic scene and consume, modify, disarticulate, and disperse bodies. However, little research exists regarding scavenging in Central Florida, specifically scavenging involving Black and Turkey Vultures (Coragyps atratus, Cathartes aura respectively). The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of vulture scavenging on consumption, disarticulation, and dispersal of child-sized carcasses in the Central Florida region. The research sample consisted of four pig (Sus scrofa) carcasses weighing approximately 25kgs that were deposited in two distinct sites (shaded and unshaded) at the Deep Foundations Geotechnical Research Site located on the UCF campus. Two field cameras were placed at each site to record the scavenging, decomposition, and dispersal. The dispersal data was mapped and analyzed using ArcGIS v. 10.2.2 spatial analyst tools. Additionally, the scavengers recorded during the research period were noted, and their effect on disarticulation, consumption and dispersal were analyzed. Overall, while the canopy at the shaded sites did not impact vulture scavenging, grass height, the site perimeter fence, and the ground surface foliage density impacted vulture dispersal patterns. The majority of elements were dispersed within 6m of the initial carcass deposition. Through analysis of recorded video it was determined that vultures were able to completely skeletonize a child-sized carcass in approximately 8 hours of feeding time. In addition to vulture activity, opossums were recorded further dispersing and modifying skeletal remains after vulture activity had ceased.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Mitchell, Alexander, "Vulture Scavenging of Child-sized Pig Carcasses in Central Florida: Utilizing GIS to Analyze Site Variables Affecting Skeletal Dispersal" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 5192.