Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Evaluation of current methods of soft tissue removal from bone
by Leeper, Bobbie J., Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2015, 153; 10076184
Abstract (Summary)

The removal of soft tissues from skeletal remains (defleshing) is a common practice in many fields, however, no formal standards exist, even in forensic fields where small bony features and trauma marks must be preserved as evidence. Due to a lack of empirical research, little is known of the effects of defleshing methods on bone tissue or on trauma marks. This study evaluated the efficiency, effectiveness, and destructiveness of 6 common defleshing methods on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virgineanus) hind limbs exhibiting cut and saw marks. Methods assessed were the use of dermestids, maceration, plain water boil, household bleach (Clorox®), sodium perborate, and enzymatic laundry detergent (Biz®). The 3 methods involving chemical or enzyme solutions were tested in low, medium, and high concentrations.

The dermestid samples were cleaned within a week, while maceration required over a month. A Kruskal-Wallis test compared the mean ranks of time-to-completion (TTC) for the heated treatments. The sodium perborate methods were significantly faster than the Biz® methods. There was no other significant difference in TTC. Maceration, plain boil, and Clorox® samples were completely cleaned of all soft tissues, but all 5 dermestid samples, 3 low concentration sodium perborate, and 4 Biz® (2 low, 1 medium, 1 high concentration) samples had remnant ligaments after processing.

No method altered the trauma marks, but damage in the form of holes through the bone was observed on 2 dermestid and 1 plain boil samples. Cortical bone exfoliation was observed on 1 sample cleaned with a high concentration of Clorox®. Paired t-tests comparing pre- and post-processing values from the confined compression tests revealed that dermestids and high concentrations of Clorox® significantly decreased the stiffness of the bone and maceration significantly increased the compressibility of the bone.

This study found that bone tissue can be damaged macroscopically and altered microscopically by the defleshing method used. Therefore, one must consider the resulting effects on bone rather than just the ease of the method if skeletal remains are to be preserved for research or forensic evidence.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Siegel, Michael I., Judd, Margaret A.
School: University of Pittsburgh
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 77/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Morphology, Physical anthropology, Zoology
Keywords: Bone, Defleshing, Forensic anthropology, Maceration, Skeletal prepration
Publication Number: 10076184
ISBN: 9781339584980
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