Some of what may be discussed on Tuesdays are a bit gruesome. If you have a queasy stomach, you may want to skip some posts... this one included. I will NEVER show pictures of dead bodies on this blog.Adipocere (also known as corpse, grave or mortuary wax) is a wax-like organic substance formed by the anaerobic bacterial hydrolysis of fat in tissue, such as body fat in corpses. In its formation, putrefaction is replaced by a permanent firm cast of fatty tissues, internal organs and the face.
The transformation of fats into adipocere occurs best in the absence of oxygen in a cold and humid environment, such as in wet ground or mud at the bottom of a lake or a sealed casket, and it can occur with both embalmed and untreated bodies. Adipocere formation begins within a month of death, and in the absence of air it can persist for centuries. An exposed, infested body or a body in a warm environment is unlikely to form deposits of adipocere.
Corpses of women, infants and overweight persons are particularly prone to adipocere transformation because they contain more body fat. In forensic science, the utility of adipocere formation to estimate the postmortem interval is limited because the speed of the process is temperature-dependent. It is accelerated by warmth, but temperature extremes impede it.
When a corpse is exposed to insects, however, adipocere probably will not be formed, as body decomposition will be much faster because of the insects' action. Animal scavenging of a dead body will also prevent adipocere formation.
Case study: Hopetoun Quarry Murders
Sources: Wikipedia and World of Forensic Science