European Journal of Experimental Biology Open Access

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Arthropod succession on wildlife carcasses in lowland rainforest, Rivers State, Nigeria

Osborne U. Ndueze, Samuel N. Okiwelu, Odidika. C. Umeozor and Mekeu. A. E. Noutcha

The decomposition process and arthropod succession on the carcasses four wildlife species: The Greater Cane Rat, Thyronomys swinderianus ; the Two-Spotted Palm Civet, Nandina binotata, the Mona monkey, Cercopithecus mona, the Maxwell’s duiker, Philantomba maxwelli, were observed over a 3-month period during the rainy season in lowland Rainforest, Nigeria. The freshly-killed carcasses were weighed and a carcass of each placed in a cage in open vegetation and the other in a sheltered location. Arthropods were collected with hand nets and crawling species manually and trapping in water. Five stages (fresh, bloated, wet, dry, skeletal) were discernible in the decomposition process. In shade, there was a significant correlation between weight of carcass and duration of decomposition process. The necrophagous dipterans (blowfly, Lucilia serricata; flesh fly, Sarcophaga haemorrhoidalis; house fly, Musca domestica) were the only early arrivals in the fresh stage. These were complemented in the bloated and wet stages by other dipterans (cheese fly, Piophila casei; black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens; green hairy maggot fly, Chrysomya rufifacies), predatory beetles (rove beetle, Octopus species; dermestid beetle, Dermestes maculatus) and formicoids. The major species in the dry stage was Dermestes maculatus. Incidentals such as crickets, spiders, moths, butterflies, and dragon flies appeared in the dry and skeletal stages. Weight and location of carcass (exposed or sheltered) and other prevailing environmental factors affect decomposition rates. Arthropods, acting as necrophages, predators and parasites are important in the decomposition process. As a result of differences in the species composition associated with each decomposition stage, it is possible to estimate Post-Mortem Interval (PMI) of carcasses in late stages of decomposition.