Forensic Taphonomy and Ecology of North American Scavengers

Forensic Taphonomy and Ecology of North American Scavengers

1st Edition - November 15, 2017

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  • Authors: Susan Sincerbox, Elizabeth DiGangi
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128132432
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128132630

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Forensic Taphonomy and Ecology of North American Scavengers compiles research on vertebrate scavenging behavior from numerous academic fields, including ecology and forensic anthropology. Scavenging behavior can displace remains from their depositional context, confound postmortem interval estimation, destroy osteological markers, and inflict damage that mimics or disguises perimortem trauma. Consequently, the actions of vertebrate scavengers can significantly impact the medicolegal investigation of human remains. It is therefore critical when interpreting a death scene and its associated evidence that scavenging be recognized and the possible effects of scavenging behavior considered. This book is an ideal reference for both students and medicolegal professionals, serving as a field manual for the identification of common scavenging species known to modify human remains in North America. In addition, this book presents a framework to guide investigators in optimizing their approach to scavenged cases, promoting more complete recovery of human remains and the accuracy of forensic reconstructions of peri- and postmortem events.

Key Features

  • Examines scavenging behavior through an evolutionary and ecological lens, integrating research from diverse fields
  • Includes brief summaries of the taphonomic signatures and ecological contexts of common or well-studied North American scavenging taxa
  • Proposes strategies to maximize the recovery of vertebrate-scavenged human remains and improve forensic reconstructions of peri- and postmortem events


Forensic science students as well as medicolegal professionals (law enforcement personnel, crime scene technicians, coroners, medical examiners, wildlife investigators, and forensic anthropologists) seeking a brief reference on scavenging behavior for use in the field. Archaeologists studying faunal or human remains bearing evidence of modification by scavengers may also find sections of this text useful

Table of Contents

  • 1. An Interdisciplinary Approach: Ecology Meets Forensics
    2. There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch: The Evolution of Scavenging
    3. Unwitting Accomplices: Scavengers and Forensic Investigation
    4. The Usual Suspects: Strategies for Scavenger Identification
    5. Making of the Maker’s Mark: Morphology, Physiology, and Behavior
    6. The Maker’s Mark: Taphonomic Signatures of Common North American Scavengers
    7. Off the Mark: Ecological Influences on Scavenging Behavior
    8. Adapting Your Investigation of Vertebrate-Scavenged Remains

Product details

  • No. of pages: 232
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Academic Press 2017
  • Published: November 15, 2017
  • Imprint: Academic Press
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128132432
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128132630

About the Authors

Susan Sincerbox

Ms. Sincerbox teaches Introductory Biological Anthropology, in the Forensic Anthropology Program, at Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas. Her research spans forensic anthropology, osteology, human decomposition and ecology. She previously participated in the HHMI Interdisciplinary Research Program and is currently focused on decomposition rate and post-mortem interval estimation.

Affiliations and Expertise

Master’s Student and Graduate Instructional Assistant, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX, United States

Elizabeth DiGangi

Dr. Elizabeth A. DiGangi received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology and history, magna cum laude, from the State University of New York at Buffalo. While working on her bachelor’s degree, she was one of the recipients of the Howard Hughes Undergraduate Fellowship in Biology where she received her first scientific research experience. She went on to earn a Master’s of Arts degree from the same institution in physical anthropology where she was an Arthur Schomburg Graduate Fellow. Following her Master’s, she moved to Knoxville, Tennessee to earn her doctorate from The University of Tennessee. She has taught extensively, either as an assistant or full instructor of several courses including Human Anatomy and Physiology, Primate Dissections, Human Origins, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Introduction to Physical Anthropology, Prehistoric Archaeology, and of a historical archaeological field school course. While at UT, she was awarded with several consecutive graduate teaching assistantships from both the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is a member of several honor societies, recipient of several merit-based travel awards, and recipient of the Tennessee Valley Authority Graduate Scholar in Archaeology award. She became tenure-track instructor of Anthropology at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville before completing her doctorate degree. Dr. DiGangi currently lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia, where she is contracted as a consultant for the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP). In this capacity, she is charged with providing advisement, training, and equipment for the country’s professional forensic anthropologists and other scientists who work on exhuming and identifying the remains of victims of the Colombian conflict. Since 2008, she has coordinated, taught, and/or developed 23 courses in forensic archaeology, osteology, skeletal trauma analysis, and research methods, training over 450 professionals. Her research interests include age-at-death estimation in skeletal remains, health of prehistoric populations, and challenges and ethical considerations of work in anthropology outside of academia. She has presented her original research at annual professional conferences including the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Paleopathology Association, and Asociación Latina de Antropología Forense. Her publications have appeared in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology and the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. She is currently organizing a multi-faceted research program using Colombian anthropologists as primary researchers to create skeletal standards of the biological profile for the Colombian population.

Affiliations and Expertise

Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY, United States

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