Entomology: Insect Morticians

The putrefying flesh of a dead animal is as unpleasant to scientists as to anyone else. As a result, relatively little research has been done on the decay processes that can rapidly reduce a dead body to bones and a few hanks of hair. The dearth of carrion data bothered Clemson University Entomologist Jerry Payne so much that his scientific curiosity eventually overcame his distaste. In some revealing experiments with decaying animal carcasses, he reports in Ecology, he clearly demonstrated that insects take the major role in the decomposition of carrion. He also suggests that study of the insects...