Decomposition refers to the process by which tissues of a dead organism break down into simpler forms of matter. Such a breakdown of dead organisms is essential for new growth and development of living organisms because it recycles the finite matter that occupies physical space in the biome. Bodies of living organisms begin to decompose shortly after death. It is a cascade of processes that go through distinct phases. It may be categorised in two stages by the types of end products. The first stage is characterized by the formation of liquid materials; flesh or plant matter begin to decompose. The second stage is limited to the production of vapors. The science which studies such decomposition generally is called taphonomy from the Greek word taphos - which means grave. Besides the two stages mentioned above, historically the progression of decomposition of the flesh of dead organisms has been viewed also as four phases:

  • fresh (autolysis)
  • bloat (putrefaction)
  • decay (putrefaction and carnivores)
  • dry (diagenesis)
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