"What happens after we die?" That's probably the oldest question in history. And the answer is simple: we become worm food. Which is to say, we decompose. And a whole lot happens to us before (and as) we become worm food, too. The decomposition of corpses is more complicated than you probably imagine. How do bodies decompose, step by step? This list includes many body decomposition facts, so you can know what it's like to decompose before you do so yourself.
First, the basics: decomposition of human (and animal) corpses occurs in five general stages: fresh, bloat, active decay, advanced decay, and dry/remains. At every stage, there are specific chemical processes as well as specific types of animals and fungi that produce distinct effects on the corpse. Along with these general stages, there are two chemical stages of decomposition, called autolysis and putrefaction. Autolysis, sometimes called "self-digestion," is the destruction of a cell through the action of its own enzymes. Putrefaction is the decomposition of proteins and the eventual liquefaction of connective tissues and internal organs.
The timing of these processes is one of the main things used by forensic experts in determining time of death when bodies are discovered at under mysterious circumstances. However, many factors influence the speed at which these stages occur, including temperature, moisture, and whether the body was buried. And of course, chemical preservation techniques such as embalming can interfere with, and even postpone, these processes for surprisingly long periods of time.
That said, let's get to the good stuff. Read on for some stand-out body decomposition facts, to impress all your friends at parties. If your friends are weird enough, that is.
Right After You Die, You Turn Limp and Ghostly Pale
During Algor Mortis, Your Body Becomes Cold to the Touch
In Livor Mortis, Your Blood Pools Into Your Tissues and Stains Your Skin
Flies Swarm Your Body Cavities, Enter Your Corpse, and Deposit Their Eggs