The ‘rare’ phenomenon that happens to your body when it decomposes

This is what happens when your corpse is buried.

body decomposes
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body decomposes

If you are someone who feels comfortable with the idea of dying, then you are already doing much better than the rest of us. However, have you considered what actually happens to your body once you die? Well, that obviously depends on your funeral arrangements - today, we are going to be talking about people who choose to get buried. However, in case you are curious about cremations, we can also tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about that.

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It turns out that regardless of where you are in the world or the ground your corpse is placed in, this rare thing will happen to your body. A recent study demonstrated that all bodies share this common experience, and explains what really happens to your body once it is in the ground.

The ‘rare’ experience your body goes through once buried

Some people are so afraid of dying that they pay to freeze their corpses in the hope that one day they will get a second shot at life. Others want to have a burial service where their loved ones can get a chance to say goodbye. Few dwell on what happens to your body once it is in the ground, but a recent study looked into exactly that.

New research published in Nature Microbiology shows dead bodies share this one experience regardless of their surroundings. The study examined 36 corpses that had been donated to science and, although they came from different places, with ‘distinct environmental features’, all the samples came up with the same selection of microbes after testing.

Microbes found in the body

Human bodies actually contain bacteria and fungal decomposers that are relatively rare elsewhere in the natural world. This is a strange thought, and some bacteria can be dangerous, but mostly our bodies live in harmony with the various organisms that they host. Indeed, the bacteria found in humans actually plays a major role in the ecosystem. It is essential in the breakdown of a human body to substances that can - eventually - feed back into the natural world.

The study also showed that many of the microbes that decompose corpses are found in the soil rather than the gut. Certain microbes may be carried by insects to human or animal bodies once they have died, but the outcome remains the same. Dr Devin Finaughty defined decomposition as ‘the consumption of organic material by other organisms, distinct from physical degradation of organic remains by physical, erosive forces, like water’:

The decomposition system pivots around the dead body as a resource and that's mainly for food, but many organisms will also use it as a breeding ground as a nursery, and as a shelter.

The publication Science explained that the findings show ‘that soils may contain a ‘microbial seed bank’, a set of rare microbes that may be barely getting by until a nutrient-rich corpse arrives’. It gets better: Greg Caporaso, a bioinformatician at Northern Arizona University, explained that the arrival of a body sees their population explode.

Amazingly, regardless of the location or the type of soil, the microbes remain the same. Whether that is a comfort to you or makes you feel a bit wobbly, it is a biological fact.

Read more:

Study reveals this part of your body survives after you die

Mystery as dead bodies are refusing to decompose in these cemeteries in Portugal

Woman, 78, dies after surgical robot ‘burnt a hole in her intestine and caused a fatal leak’

Sources used:

indy100: Scientists discover one thing that all dead bodies have in common

Science: Thousands of unexpected microbes break down our bodies after death

Study reveals the surprising phenomenon that happens in your brain right before you die Study reveals the surprising phenomenon that happens in your brain right before you die