© VENUS/Gail Anderson and Lynne Bell
Deep-sea scavengers made quick work of this pig's carcass.
When a dead body decomposes in the ocean, scientists know little about what happens to it. To find out, some researchers performed an unusual experiment that involved dropping pig carcasses into the sea and watching them on video.
Lots of human bodies end up
in the sea, whether due to accidents, suicides or from being intentionally dumped there, but nobody really knows what happens to them, said Gail Anderson, a forensic entomologist at Simon Fraser University in Canada who led the unusual study.
Anderson and her team got a chance to find out, using the Victoria Experimental Network Under the Sea (VENUS), an underwater laboratory that allows scientists to take video and other measurements via the Internet. With that equipment, all they needed was a body.
"Pigs are the best models for humans," Anderson told Live Science. They're roughly the right size for a human body; they have the same kind of gut bacteria, and they're relatively hairless, she said.
In the study, published Oct. 20 in the journal PLOS ONE
, Anderson and her team used a remotely operated submarine to drop three pig carcasses into the Saanich Inlet, a body of salt water near Vancouver Island, British Columbia, at a depth of 330 feet (100 meters).