When our bodies die

Kiss of death

What happens when we die? Well, that depends on where we end up. A body that has been refrigerated and encased in a coffin could take decades to completely decompose.

But out in the open, the human body can disappear in just months. Here, within minutes of death, carbon dioxide starts to accumulate in our blood, causing cells to burst open and spew out enzymes that digest tissues. Within half an hour, blood starts to pool at the lowest point, while the rest of the body turns pale.

Rigor mortis then sets in as calcium ions diffuse into cells causing muscles to contract.

Three days later, putrification occurs as microbes that live in our gut break down proteins, creating a repulsive odour. They produce gases that bloat the body, which after two weeks collapses.

Our flesh is rapidly consumed by bacteria and maggots. Eventually, after months or years, only bones are left – minus their collagen – which succumbs to bacteria and fungi.”

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