Skeletonization refers to the final stage of decomposition, during which the last vestiges of the soft tissues of a corpse or carcass have decayed or dried to the point that the skeleton is exposed. By the end of the skeletonization process, all soft tissue will have been eliminated, leaving only disarticulated bones.[1] In a temperate climate, it usually requires three weeks to several years for a body to completely decompose into a skeleton, depending on factors such as temperature, humidity, presence of insects, and submergence in a substrate such as water.[2] In tropical climates, skeletonization can occur in weeks, while in tundra areas, skeletonization may take years or may never occur, if subzero temperatures persist. Natural embalming processes in peat bogs or salt deserts can delay the process indefinitely, sometimes resulting in natural mummification.[3]

The rate of skeletonization and the present condition of a corpse or carcass can be used to determine the time of death.[4]

After skeletonization, if scavenging animals do not destroy or remove the bones, acids in many fertile soils take about 20 years to completely dissolve the skeleton of mid- to large-size mammals, such as humans, leaving no trace of the organism. In neutral-pH soil or sand, the skeleton can persist for hundreds of years before it finally disintegrates. Alternately, especially in very fine, dry, salty, anoxic, or mildly alkaline soils, bones may undergo fossilization, converting into minerals that may persist indefinitely.[3]

Example of a pig carcass in the dry decay stage of decomposition
Partly skeletonized pig, seven weeks after death.


  1. ^ Tersigni-Tarrant, MariaTeresa A.; Shirley, Natalie R. (2012). Forensic Anthropology: An Introduction. CRC Press. p. 351. ISBN 9781439816462. Retrieved March 11, 2014.
  2. ^ Senn, David R.; Weems, Richard A. (2013). Manual of Forensic Odontology, Fifth Edition. CRC Press. p. 48. ISBN 9781439851333. Retrieved March 11, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Byrd, Jason H.; Castner, James L. (2012). Forensic Entomology: The Utility of Arthropods in Legal Investigations, Second Edition. CRC Press. pp. 407–423. ISBN 9781420008869. Retrieved March 11, 2014.
  4. ^ Dix, Jay; Graham, Michael (1999). Time of Death, Decomposition and Identification: An Atlas. CRC Press. pp. 11–12. ISBN 9780849323676. Retrieved March 11, 2014.
Preceded by
Stages of human development
Succeeded by
Algor mortis

Algor mortis (Latin: algor—coldness; mortis—of death), the second stage of death, is the change in body temperature post mortem, until the ambient temperature is matched. This is generally a steady decline, although if the ambient temperature is above the body temperature (such as in a hot desert), the change in temperature will be positive, as the (relatively) cooler body acclimates to the warmer environment. External factors can have a significant influence.

The term was first used by Dowler in 1849. The first published measurements of the intervals of temperature after death were done by Dr John Davey in 1839.

Amira (software)

Amira (pronounce: Ah-meer-ah) is a software platform for 3D and 4D data visualization, processing, and analysis. It is being actively developed by Thermo Fisher Scientific in collaboration with the Zuse Institute Berlin (ZIB), and commercially distributed by Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Bobo (gorilla)

Bobo (1951–1968) was a western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) who was a prominent feature of Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington, USA, from 1953 until his early death at 17 (less than half his normal lifespan). As a publicly accessible gorilla in the wake of King Kong, Bobo was one of Seattle's most prominent attractions before the construction of the Space Needle and the introduction of professional sports to the city. After his death, Bobo's skin was stuffed and placed on display at Seattle's Museum of History and Industry. The remainder of his body was turned over to the University of Washington's Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture for research purposes; however, the skull went missing shortly after his autopsy and wasn't reunited with the rest of the skeleton until 2007.

Caloptilia blandella

Caloptilia blandella is a moth of the family Gracillariidae. It is known from Canada (Québec) the United States (including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maine, Maryland, Texas and Kentucky).The wingspan is about 9 mm.

The larvae feed on Carya ovata and Juglans nigra. They mine the leaves of their host plant. The mine has the form of a little crooked, very narrow mine resembling a small snail's track. It is found on the upperside of the leaf. Later instars create a leaf cone. It involves only one fold of the host leaflet, and therefore extensive skeletonization can be seen on the exterior of the fold. Often, the fold is located on the margin of the leaflet rather than at the apex.

Death messenger

Death messengers, in former times, were those who were dispatched to spread the news that an inhabitant of their city or village had died. They were to wear unadorned black and go door to door with the message, "You are asked to attend the funeral of the departed __________ at (time, date, and place)." This was all they were allowed to say, and were to move on to the next house immediately after uttering the announcement. This tradition persisted in some areas to as late as the mid-19th century.

Discrete skeleton evolution

Discrete Skeleton Evolution (DSE) describes an iterative approach to reducing a morphological or topological skeleton. It is a form of pruning in that it removes noisy or redundant branches (spurs) generated by the skeletonization process, while preserving information-rich "trunk" segments. The value assigned to individual branches varies from algorithm to algorithm, with the general goal being to convey the features of interest of the original contour with a few carefully chosen lines. Usually, clarity for human vision (aka. the ability to "read" some features of the original shape from the skeleton) is valued as well. DSE algorithms are distinguished by complex, recursive decision-making processes with high computational requirements. Pruning methods such as by structuring element (SE) convolution and the Hough transform are general purpose algorithms which quickly pass through an image and eliminate all branches shorter than a given threshold. DSE methods are most applicable when detail retention and contour reconstruction are valued.


An exoskeleton (from Greek έξω, éxō "outer" and σκελετός, skeletós "skeleton") is the external skeleton that supports and protects an animal's body, in contrast to the internal skeleton (endoskeleton) of, for example, a human. In usage, some of the larger kinds of exoskeletons are known as "shells". Examples of animals with exoskeletons include insects such as grasshoppers and cockroaches, and crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters. The shells of certain sponges and the various groups of shelled molluscs, including those of snails, clams, tusk shells, chitons and nautilus, Some animals, such as the tortoise, have both an endoskeleton and an exoskeleton.

Livor mortis

Livor mortis (Latin: livor – "bluish color", mortis – "of death"), postmortem lividity (Latin: postmortem – "after death", lividity – "black and blue"), hypostasis (Greek: hypo, meaning "under, beneath"; stasis, meaning "a standing") or suggillation, is the fourth stage of death and one of the signs of death. It is a settling of the blood in the lower, or dependent, portion of the body postmortem, causing a purplish red discoloration of the skin. When the heart stops functioning and is no longer agitating the blood, heavy red blood cells sink through the serum by action of gravity. The blood travels faster in warmer conditions and slower in colder conditions.

Livor mortis starts in 20–30 minutes, but is usually not observable by the human eye until two hours after death. The size of the patches increases in the next three to six hours, with maximum lividity occurring between eight and twelve hours after death. The blood pools into the interstitial tissues of the body. The intensity of the color depends upon the amount of reduced haemoglobin in the blood. The discoloration does not occur in the areas of the body that are in contact with the ground or another object, in which capillaries are compressed.


Megadeath (or megacorpse) is one million human deaths, usually caused by a nuclear explosion. The term was used by scientists and thinkers who strategized likely outcomes of all-out nuclear warfare.

Morphological skeleton

In digital image processing, morphological skeleton is a skeleton (or medial axis) representation of a shape or binary image, computed by means of morphological operators.

Morphological skeletons are of two kinds:

Those defined by means of morphological openings, from which the original shape can be reconstructed,

Those computed by means of the hit-or-miss transform, which preserve the shape's topology.


NeuronStudio is a non-commercial program created at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai by the Computational Neurobiology and Imaging Center. This program performs automatic tracing and reconstruction of neuron structures from confocal image stacks. The resulting model can then be exported to a file using standard formats for further processing, modeling, or for statistical analyses.

The system handles morphologic details on scales spanning local spine geometry through complex tree topology to the gross spatial arrangement of multi-neuron networks. NeuronStudio's capability for automated digitization avoids the subjective errors that arise during manual tracing.

Pallor mortis

Pallor mortis (Latin: pallor "paleness", mortis "of death"), the first stage of death, is an after-death paleness that occurs in those with light/white skin.

Post-mortem interval

Post-mortem interval (PMI) is the time that has elapsed since a person has died. If the time in question is not known, a number of medical/scientific techniques are used to determine it. This also can refer to the stage of decomposition of the body.


Putrefaction is the fifth stage of death, following pallor mortis, algor mortis, rigor mortis, and livor mortis. This process references the breaking down of a body of a human or animal post-mortem (meaning after death). In broad terms, it can be viewed as the decomposition of proteins, and the eventual breakdown of the cohesiveness between tissues, and the liquefaction of most organs. This is caused by the decomposition of organic matter by bacterial or fungal digestion, which causes the release of gases that infiltrate the body's tissues, and leads to the deterioration of the tissues and organs.

The approximate time it takes putrefaction to occur is dependent on various factors. Internal factors that affect the rate of putrefaction include the age at which death has occurred, the overall structure and condition of the body, the cause of death, and external injuries arising before or after death. External factors include environmental temperature, moisture and air exposure, clothing, burial factors, and light exposure.

The first signs of putrefaction are signified by a greenish discoloration on the outside of the skin on the abdominal wall corresponding to where the large intestine begins, as well as under the surface of the liver.

Certain substances, such as carbolic acid, arsenic, strychnine, and zinc chloride, can be used to delay the process of putrefaction in various ways based on their chemical make up.

Body farms are facilities which study the process of human decomposition as well as how environmental factors affect the rate of putrefaction.

Rigor mortis

Rigor mortis (Latin: rigor "stiffness", mortis "of death"), or postmortem rigidity, is the third stage of death. It is one of the recognizable signs of death, characterized by stiffening of the limbs of the corpse caused by chemical changes in the muscles postmortem. In humans, rigor mortis can occur as soon as four hours after death.

Skeleton watch

A skeleton watch is a mechanical watch, in which all of the moving parts are visible through either the front of the watch, the back of the watch or a small cut outlining the dial.

True 'skeletonization' also includes the trimming away of any non-essential metal on the bridge, plate, wheel train or any other mechanical part of the watch, leaving only a minimalist 'bare' skeleton of the movement required for functionality. Often, the remaining thinned movement is decorated with engraving. This can be with or without a dial face that allows the user to see through to the movement.

Some makers of mechanical skeleton watches and models include but are not limited to:



Basse Broye

Invicta watch

Patek Philippe Skeleton

Stauer 1779 and 1901 Skeleton


Fossil Twist


DEPA Skeleton movements

Orkina Skeleton




Stührling Original



Jochen Benzinger

Kenneth Cole

Tissot Le Locle


Orion Skeleton




IK Colouring





Tao International

Rotary Skeleton

Yves Camani

Claude Meylan, Vallée de Joux [1]

HMT, Skeleton in steel & gold

Piaget Altiplano Skeleton

Skeletonization (disambiguation)

Skeletonization may refer to

Skeletonization, the final stage of death, for organisms with internal skeletons

Topological skeletonization, a digital imaging method.

Topological skeleton

In shape analysis, skeleton (or topological skeleton) of a shape is a thin version of that shape that is equidistant to its boundaries. The skeleton usually emphasizes geometrical and topological properties of the shape, such as its connectivity, topology, length, direction, and width. Together with the distance of its points to the shape boundary, the skeleton can also serve as a representation of the shape (they contain all the information necessary to reconstruct the shape).

Skeletons have several different mathematical definitions in the technical literature, and there are many different algorithms for computing them. Various different variants of skeleton can also be found, including straight skeletons, morphological skeletons, etc.

In the technical literature, the concepts of skeleton and medial axis are used interchangeably by some authors, while some other authors regard them as related, but not the same. Similarly, the concepts of skeletonization and thinning are also regarded as identical by some, and not by others.Skeletons are widely used in computer vision, image analysis, pattern recognition and digital image processing for purposes such as optical character recognition, fingerprint recognition, visual inspection or compression. Within the life sciences skeletons found extensive use to characterize protein folding and plant morphology on various biological scales.

Unidentified decedent

Unidentified decedent or unidentified person (also abbreviated as UID or UP) is a term in American English used to describe a corpse of a person whose identity cannot be established by police and medical examiners. In many cases, it is several years before the identities of some UIDs are found, while in some cases, they are never identified. A UID may remain unidentified due to lack of evidence as well as absence of personal identification such as a driver's license. Where the remains have deteriorated or been mutilated to the point that the body is not easily recognized, a UID's face may be reconstructed to show what they had looked like before death. UIDs are often referred to by the placeholder names "John Doe" or "Jane Doe".

In medicine
After death

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