Carrion Ecology, Evolution, and Their Applications  book cover
1st Edition

Carrion Ecology, Evolution, and Their Applications

ISBN 9781138893849
Published January 24, 2018 by CRC Press
512 Pages 32 Color & 200 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Shortlisted for the 2018 TWS Wildlife Publication Awards in the edited book category


Decomposition and recycling of vertebrate remains have been understudied, hampered largely due to these processes being aesthetically challenging (e.g., smell and sight). Technological innovations have provided the means to explore new and historically understood natural systems to give us a plethora of new information. Carrion Ecology, Evolution, and Their Applications covers a broad spectrum of topics including the molecular mechanistic foundations that provide the basis for intra- and interspecific interactions related to population biology, community ecology, and how this manifests into habitat- and ecosystem-level importance. The book connects the science of carrion decomposition from genes to ecosystems in multidisciplinary synthesis of the science.

This book brings together a team of global experts involved with measuring and understanding the process and effects of carrion ecology in nature, with special application in such applied fields as forensic entomology, habitat management, animal production (e.g., livestock and aquaculture), and human and environmental health. It fills a large literature gap in ecology, providing a synthesis and future directions important for studies of carrion decomposition that improve the general understanding of decomposition in ecosystems. The book fuses multiple disciplines into a single message explaining the importance of vertebrate carrion ecology in nature.

Illustrates Carrion Decomposition in a 16-Page Color Insert with 40 Photos

The authors illustrate how the study of carrion transcends the globe and expands systems of inquiry, broadening awareness of this important ecosystem process. Whether you are a student, academic, or professional, you will find this book insightful for the fields of molecular ecology, microbiology, entomology, forensics, population biology, community and ecosystem ecology, and human and environmental health.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Carrion, Ecology, Evolution, and Their Applications

Eric Benbow, Jeffery K. Tomberlin, and Aaron M. Tarone
Processes and Mechanisms of Death and Decomposition of Vertebrate Carrion
Shari L. Forbes and David O. Carter
Microbial Interactions During Carrion Decomposition
Tawni L. Crippen, M. Eric Benbow, and Jennifer L. Pechal
Arthropod Communities in Terrestrial Environments
Richard W. Merritt and Grant D. De Jong
Carrion Effects on Belowground Communities and Consequences for Soil Proceßes
Michael S. Strickland and Kyle Wickings
Ecological Role of Vertebrate Scavengers
James C. Beasley, Zach H. Olson, and Travis L. DeVault
Design and Analysis of Field Studies in Carrion Ecology
Kenneth G. Schoenly, J.-P. Michaud, and GaÉtan Moreau


Community and Landscape Ecology of Carrion
Eric Benbow, Jennifer L. Pechal, Rachel M. Mohr
Chemical Ecology of Vertebrate Carrion
Jonathan A. Cammack, Meaghan L. Pimsler, Tawni L. Crippen, and Jeffery K. Tomberlin
Vertebrate Carrion as a Model for Conducting Behavior Research
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, Michelle R. Sanford, Meaghan L. Pimsler, and
Sherah L. VanLaerhoven
Modeling Species Interactions within Carrion Food Webs
Sherah L. VanLaerhoven
Aquatic Vertebrate Carrion Decomposition
John R. Wallace
The Role of Carrion in Ecosystems
Philip S. Barton

Ecological Genetics

Aaron M. Tarone
Quantitative Genetics of Life-History Traits in Coprophagous and
Necrophagous Insects
Wolf Blanckenhorn
Carrion and Dung Mimicry in Plants
Andreas Jürgens and Adam Shuttleworth
Population Genetics and Molecular Evolution of Carrion-Associated Arthropods
Christine J. Picard, Jonathan J. Parrott, and John W. Whale
Microbial Genetics and Systematics
Michael S. Allen and Michael G. LaMontagne
Microbiome Studies of Carrion Decomposition
Jeßica L. Metcalf, David O. Carter, and Rob Knight
Interkingdom Ecological Interactions of Carrion Decomposition
Heather R. Jordan, Jeffery K. Tomberlin, Thomas K. Wood, and M. Eric Benbow
Ecology of African Carrion
Sarah C. Jones, Eli D. Strauß, and Kay E. Holekamp

Carrion Communities as Indicators in Fisheries, Wildlife Management, and Conservation
.D. Hocking and S.M. O’Regan
Composting as a Method for Carrion Disposal in Livestock Production
Shanwei Xu, Tim Reuter, Kim Stanford, Francis J. Larney, and Tim A. McAllister
Human Decomposition and Forensics
Gail S. Anderson
Frontiers in Carrion Ecology and Evolution
Eric Benbow, Jeffery K. Tomberlin, and Aaron M. Tarone

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Dr. M. Eric Benbow is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Entomology and Osteopathic Medical Specialties at Michigan State University. The research in his lab focuses on microbial-invertebrate community interactions in aquatic ecosystems, disease systems and carrion ecology and evolution. All of these research foci use basic science to inform applications in areas such as human health, natural resources management and forensics. Dr. Benbow has authored or co-authored a collection of over 100 peer-reviewed papers, book chapters, and proceedings, many of which relate to carrion decomposition ecology. He has served on a National Research Council committee related to aquatic ecology, and is regularly invited as a speaker at international and national academic meetings related to aquatic, disease and decomposition ecology. Dr. Benbow has led workshops at the international level discussing experimental design, statistical analyses and the importance of novel basic ecological concepts in advancing the field of carrion ecology and applications in forensics. Dr. Benbow was part of the inaugural executive committee for the North American Forensic Entomology Association (NAFEA) where he served as the Editor-in-Chief of the annual NAFEA Newsletter and NAFEA Webmaster ( for eight years. He was the president of NAFEA from 2012-2013 and has served as an expert witness and worked on several cases that involved insects as evidence during investigations or water resource litigation. He continues a recognized research program in microbe-insect interactions that supports undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral associates. Dr. Benbow continues to mentor and co-mentor students and postdoctoral associates through research and teaching. He sees the future of ecology and evolution to fundamentally be in the hands of students and early scientists worldwide.

Dr. Jeffery K. Tomberlin is an associate professor and co-director of the Forensic & Investigative Sciences Program and principal investigator of the Forensic Laboratory for Investigative Entomological Sciences (FLIES) facility ( in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University. Research in the FLIES facility examines species interactions on ephemeral resources such as vertebrate carrion, decomposing plant material, and animal wastes to better understand the mechanisms regulating arthropod behavior related to arrival, colonization, and succession patterns. The goals of his program are to refine current methods used by entomologists in forensic investigations. His research is also focused on waste management in confined animal facilities and the production of alternate protein sources for use as livestock, poultry, and aquaculture feed. Since arriving on campus at Texas A&M University in 2007, six PhD and eight MS students have completed their degrees under his supervision. Dr. Tomberlin welcomes those who are interested in collaborating or gaining experience in forensic entomology or other areas of his research to visit the FLIES facility. Dr. Tomberlin has been very active within the forensic science community. He, along with a colleague, initiated the first forensic entomology conference in North America as well as the formation of the North America Forensic Entomology Association, of which he served as the first president. He is also a Fellow in the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and has served as the chair of the Pathology/Biology Section. Dr. Tomberlin is also one of the 17 entomologists who are board certified by the American Board of Forensic Entomology (ABFE). He has served several roles within the ABFE including secretary and chair.

Dr. Aaron M. Tarone is an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University. He teaches in the in the Forensic & Investigative Sciences Program housed in that Department and is part of the Texas A&M University Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Doctoral Program. Dr. Tarone is a member of the Genetics Society of America, the Entomological Society of America, and the North American Forensic Entomology Association. Research in his laboratory is centered on genetic studies of development time and body size both in model organisms like Drosophila melanogaster and in carrion feeding blow flies. Dr. Tarone has also been a leader in developing genomic tools for non-model organisms, including carrion feeding insects. He has been involved in genomic projects related to carrion biology that have been funded by Texas A&M University and the National Institute of Justice and he assisted in the annotation of the Tsetse genome. He hopes to use knowledge gained from his research to increase the accuracy and precision of estimates of insect age in forensic investigations while simultaneously furthering basic knowledge in the evolutionary ecology of carrion systems.