Scientists at Texas State University are researching a gruesome question: How long does it take vultures to devour a human corpse?
The results are important for homicide investigators trying to determine a time and cause of death for bodies that have decomposed outdoors.
At a field several miles from campus, pathologists lay donated cadavers on the ground and watch how they decay.
In one case, vultures descended on a body and reduced it to a skeleton within hours.
Experienced investigators would normally have interpreted the absence of flesh and the condition of the bones as evidence that the person had been dead for six months, possibly even a year or more. But the Texas State study is calling into question many of the benchmarks detectives have long relied on.