A different kind of meditation on death

A forum for discussing aspects of dying and death. Please be mindful when posting in this section.
User avatar
Kim O'Hara
Former staff member
Posts: 5117
Joined: Fri Nov 16, 2012 1:09 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: A different kind of meditation on death

Post by Kim O'Hara »

Here's another new idea - and it looks good.
Dutch Man Invents Coffin That Turns Bodies Into Mushrooms: ‘We are nutrients, not waste’

Dubbed the ‘Living Cocoon,’ the coffin gives an option for a more ecologically conscious generation who may want to leave a positive impact on the planet after they’ve gone.

Created by 26-year-old Bob Hendrikx, a bio-designer from the University of Delft, the Living Cocoon is made by growing mycelium around a coffin-shaped frame. Mycelium is the part of the mushroom we can’t see—the underground fibrous network that makes up most of the lifeform.

Hendrikx also referred to it as “nature’s recycler,” as mycelium has been shown by mushroom scientists, called mycologists, to be able to process things which other agents of decomposition can’t tackle. ...

In contrast to the years it can take a conventional coffin—with artificial cloth fibers, laminated wood, and metal components—to break down, local newspapers covering the funeral claimed the Living Cocoon “takes one week to grow and then, containing the body of the deceased, takes an estimated two to three years to decompose.”
:reading: https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/bob-hen ... om-coffin/

User avatar
Posts: 3418
Joined: Sat Mar 27, 2010 11:44 am

Re: A different kind of meditation on death

Post by Aemilius »

I can't see much benefit in making the corpse a basis for fungi. In natural conditions the cadaver serves as food for a wide variety of insects:

"When studying decomposition from an entomological point of view and for the purpose of applying data to human death investigations, the domestic pig Sus scrofa (Linnaeus) is considered to be the preferred human analogs. In entomological studies, five stages of decomposition are commonly described: (1) Fresh, (2) Bloat, (3) Active Decay, (4) Advanced or Post-Decay, and (5) Dry Remains. While the pattern of arthropod colonization follows a reasonably predictable sequence, the limits of each stage of decomposition will not necessarily coincide with a major change in the faunal community. Therefore, the stages of decomposition are defined by the observable physical changes to the state of the carcass. A pattern of insect succession results as different carrion insects are attracted to the varying biological, chemical and physical changes a carcass undergoes throughout the process of decay.

A decaying carcass provides "a temporarily, rapidly changing resource which supports a large, dynamic arthropod community." – M. Grassberger and C. Frank

Fresh stage

The fresh stage of decomposition is generally described as the period between the moment of death and when the first signs of bloat are apparent.There are no outward signs of physical change, though internal bacteria have begun to digest organ tissues. No odor is associated with the carcass. Early post-mortem changes, used by pathologists as medical markers for early post-mortem interval estimations, have been described by Goff and include livor mortis, rigor mortis and algor mortis.

The first insects to arrive at decomposing remains are usually Calliphoridae, commonly referred to as blow flies. These flies have been reported to arrive within minutes of death or exposure, and deposit eggs within 1–3 hours. Adult flies of the families Sarcophagidae (flesh flies) and Muscidae are also common in this first stage of decomposition. First eggs are laid in or near the natural orifices of the head and anus, as well as at the site of perimortem wounds. Depending on the rate of decomposition and the development time of particular blowfly species, eggs may hatch and young larvae begin to feed on tissues and liquids while the carcass is still classified in the fresh stage.

Adult ants may also be seen at a carcass during the fresh stage. Ants will feed both on the carcass flesh as well as eggs and young larvae of first arriving flies.

Bloat stage

The first visible sign of the Bloat Stage is a slight inflation of the abdomen and some blood bubbles at the nose. Activity of anaerobic bacteria in the abdomen create gases, which accumulate and results in abdominal bloating. A colour change is observed in the carcass flesh, along with the appearance of marbling. During the bloat stage the odor of putrefaction becomes noticeable.

Blowflies remain present in great numbers during the bloat stage, and blowflies, flesh flies and muscids continue to lay eggs. Insects of the families Piophilidae and Fanniidae arrive during the bloat stage. Ants continue to feed on the eggs and young larvae of flies.

The first species of Coleoptera arrive during the bloat stage of decomposition, including members of the families Staphylinidae (rove beetles), Silphidae (carrion beetles) and Cleridae. These beetles are observed feeding on fly eggs and larvae. Beetle species from the families Histeridae may also be collected during this stage, and are often hidden beneath remains.

Active decay stage

The beginning of active decay stage is marked by the deflation of the carcass as feeding Dipteran larvae pierce the skin and internal gases are released. During this stage the carcass has a characteristic wet appearance due to the liquefaction of tissues. Flesh from the head and around the anus and umbilical cord is removed by larval feeding activity. A strong odor of putrefaction is associated with the carcass.

Feeding larvae of Calliphoridae flies are the dominant insect group at carcasses during the active decay stage. At the beginning of the stage larvae are concentrated in natural orifices, which offer the least resistance to feeding. Towards later stages, when flesh has been removed from the head and orifices, larvae become more concentrated in the thoracic and abdominal cavities.

Adult calliphorids and muscids decreased in numbers during this stage, and were not observed to be mating. However, non-Calliphoridae Dipterans are collected from carcasses. The first members of Sepsidae arrive at the carcass during the active decay stage. Members of Coleoptera become the dominant adult insects at the site of remains. In particular, the numbers of staphylinids and histerids increase.

Advanced decay stage

Most of the flesh is removed from the carcass during the advanced decay stage, though some flesh may remain in the abdominal cavity. Strong odors of decomposition begin to fade.

This stage marks the first mass migration of third instar calliphorid larvae from the carcass Piophilidae larvae may also be collected at this stage. Few adult calliphoridae are attracted to carcasses in advanced decay. Adult Dermestidae (skin beetles) arrive at the carcass; adult dermestid beetles may be common, whereas larval stages are not.

Dry decay

The final stage of decomposition is dry remains. Payne described a total of six stages of decay, the last two being separate dry and remains. As these stages are nearly impossible to distinguish between, many entomological studies combine the two into a single final stage. Very little remains of the carcass in this stage, mainly bones, cartilage and small bits of dried skin. There is little to no odor associated with remains.Any odor present may range from that of dried skin to wet fur.

The greatest number of species are reported to occur in the late decay and dry stages. The dry decay stage is characterized by the movement from previously dominant carrion fauna to new species.Very few adult calliphorids are attracted to the carcass at this stage, and adult piophilids emerge. The dermestid beetles, common in advanced decay, leave the carcass. Non-carrion organisms that commonly arrive at remains in dry decay are centipedes, millipedes, isopods, snails and cockroaches.

Factors affecting decomposition

Understanding how a corpse decomposes and the factors that may alter the rate of decay is extremely important for evidence in death investigations. Campobasso, Vella, and Introna consider the factors that may inhibit or favor the colonization of insects to be vitally important when determining the time of insect colonization.

Temperature and climate

Low temperatures generally slow down the activity of blow-flies and their colonization of a body. Higher temperatures in the summer favor large maggot masses on the carrion. Dry and windy environments can dehydrate a corpse, leading to mummification. Dryness causes cessation in bacterial growth since there are no nutrients present to feed on.


Access to the body can limit which insects can get to the body in order to feed and lay eggs. Those circumstances that enhance the availability of corpses for arthropod colonization are called "physical barriers". For example, corpses found in brightly lit areas are generally inhabited by Lucilia illustris, in contrast to Phormia regina, which prefers more shaded areas. Darkness, cold, and rain limit the amount of insects that would otherwise colonize the body. A submerged corpse can vary in temperature and is colonized by very few terrestrial insects. Fish, crustaceans, aquatic insects and bacteria would be the likely fauna in this case. Bodies that have been buried are harder to get to than freely available bodies which limits the availability of certain insects to colonize. The Coffin fly Megaselia scalaris is one of the few fly species seen on buried bodies because it has the ability to dig up to six feet underground to reach a body and oviposit. "
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)
User avatar
Kim O'Hara
Former staff member
Posts: 5117
Joined: Fri Nov 16, 2012 1:09 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: A different kind of meditation on death

Post by Kim O'Hara »

but it's good practice to provide references when you're quoting. It allows people to assess the value of your sources, and to extend their enquiries if they wish to.


Post Reply

Return to “Dying and Death”