It seems that not even the sweet release of death can put an end to the body's movements. And no, we are not talking about zombies. According to new research from Australian scientists, corpses are not that stiff after all and move about for over a year after death due to the process of decomposition.
The research was conducted at a body farm in Australia where researchers study how bodies decompose. This, in turn, can improve forensic techniques. The team looked at a time-lapse of a decomposing body taken every 30 minutes over a period of 17 months.
The researchers expected to see some movement in the early days after death, but they witnessed movement for more than a year and a half. The motions could be the result of ligaments drying out.
"What we found was that the arms were significantly moving, so that arms that started off down beside the body ended up out to the side of the body," lead researcher Alyson Wilson told ABC News Australia.
The study is yet to be published but the team has recently completed an investigation using the same time-lapse approach to improve post-mortem time estimation. That work, published in the journal Forensic Science International: Synergy, looked at the first six months after death and gained insight into the best time of day to estimate decomposition levels.
"This research is very important to help law enforcement to solve crime and it also assists in disaster investigations," Wilson explained. "It's important for victims and victims' families, and in a lot of cases it gives the victim a voice to tell their last story."
The research was conducted at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), which was set up three years ago in the bushland outside of Sydney, the only facility of this kind located in the Southern Hemisphere. A total of 70 bodies have been donated to this body farm so far.
The decomposition time equation was devised and tested in the Northern Hemisphere, so having a facility like AFTER has allowed researchers to confirm that the approach is still valid even in the different environment of Australia.
[H/T: ABC News]