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Life after death: How insects rise from the dead and transform corpses into skeletons


It’s that time of the year when skeletons, skulls and bones have found their way onto cookies, porches and storefront windows.

While skeletons are universally considered symbols of death, the process of turning a newly dead animal into a bony skeleton relies on an explosion of life that ushers in the process of decomposition. Much of this transformative process is performed by wriggling, scuttling, scurrying insects.

Through decades of careful observation and experimentation, entomologists have described a five-stage model of decomposition. This model explains how insects, in close collaboration with microorganisms, transform a warm body into a pile of bones while simultaneously recycling carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous and numerous other nutrients so that other living things may grow and thrive. MORE

Header image: A carrion beetle always sports Halloween-appropriate colours. Header image: ricosz/flickr.