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In this lab exercise, students investigate taphonomic processes operating on a large vertebrate carcass (whitetail deer: Odocoileus virginianus) in a temperate, humid, terrestrial environment (i.e., central Ohio). Prior to the lab, students read the 1991 review article on terrestrial vertebrate accumulations by A. K. Behrensmeyer. Once in the field, they familiarize themselves with the locality and note the state of the carcass and the position of any disarticulated portions of the beast. Using the stake flags they mark the location of all the elements of the carcass. Next, using the Brunton compasses and the measuring tape, create a map of the site. They then reassemble all the elements of the carcass on the tarp and identify all of the skeletal elements. Finally, the students compare the disarticulated skeleton with a control carcass placed in a wire mesh cage designed to exclude any macro-scavengers. In the lab, student synthesize their results and respond to a series of questions related to vertebrate taphonomy and the quality of the fossil record.
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