Produced in 1983 by the Institute of Biology as part of its Studies in Biology series, this booklet looks at the interesting subject of the decomposition system and the importance of the organisms which facilitate this to ecology. This booklet examines the mechanics and processes of the decomposition of carrion and animal wastes and the evolution of the organisms which are involved.
1. Introduction: carrion and dung and their place in the ecosystem
Carrion and dung as bottlenecks in ecosystems
Carrion and dung as specialized habitats
The relative roles of scavengers and decomposers in the degradation of litter, dung and carrion
3. Decomposition of carrion and dung
Removal of carrion by vertebrate scavengers
Decomposition of carrion
Effects of decaying carrion on the surrounding environment
Decomposition of dung
Effects of decaying dung on the surrounding environment
Sewage treatment: artificial decomposition of human excrement
4. The carrion community
Vertebrates as scavengers of carrion
Invertebrates on carrion
Burying beetles or sexton beetles: [i]Necrophorus[/i] spp.
Carrion for r-selected organisms
5. The dung community
Dung flies and optimal behaviour sequences
Dung as a problem for parasites
6 Decomposition in aquatic systems
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