Folkstreams head and documentary film maker Tom Davenport writes to tell us of a time lapse video of decomposing pigs and why that is important:

My childhood friend Jerry Payne who attended Upperville school and Marshall High School two years ahead of me, did ground breaking research on insect succession in dead bodies. I made transfer of his old 1965 time lapse film and posted it here on Youtube.

His work became a foundation in modern forensic science to determine the date of death.

Here’s the YouTube text:

Jerry Payne’s experiment that led to idea of “succession” in decomposition. During the mid-1960s, when he as a graduate student at Clemson University in SC, Jerry Payne began to lay the groundwork for another modern approach: succession. Simply stated, succession is the idea that as each organism or group of organisms feeds on a body, it changes the body. This change in turn makes the body attractive to another group of organisms, which changes the body for the next group, and so on until the body has been reduced to a skeleton. This is a predictable process, with different groups of organisms occupying the decomposing body at different times. In his landmark paper, published in the journal Ecology in 1965, Jerry Payne detailed the changes that occurred during the decomposition of pig carcasses that were exposed to insects, compared to the changes in pig carcasses that were protected from insect activity. This work built on and refined studies conducted almost 70 years earlier in France by Megnin. Megnin recognized nine stages of decomposition, but Payne recognized only six, introducing the system currently used by most forensic entomologists. Payne further emphasized the great variety of organisms involved in the process, recording over 500 species. Payne also conducted other experiments, including studies of submerged carrion.

“The technique of time-lapse photography is employed to illustrate the rapid removal of carrion (4 days reduced to approximately 6 minutes). The film demonstrates the sequence of tissue destruction and the role of insects in the ultimate dismemberment of the pig carcass and soil movement. The pink and purple beads were added to show the intense activities of the insects in moving the carcass and soil.

The original film (copyright 1965) is with Jerry Payne in Musella, GA. Tom Davenport (Hollinfarms) grew up with Jerry in rural Northern Virginia.