Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dabbs, Gretchen


The dermestid beetle (Dermestes maculatus) has become renowned in the laboratory as an aid to skeletonization of remains, both for the zoologist and the anthropologist. However, little attention has been paid to the potential effects these insects can have on hard tissues and whether their traces may be mistaken for trauma or the effects of taphonomic processes. The use of dermestid beetles in the anthropology laboratory was tested by a choice experiment based on ASTM D3345-17, examining the behavior of D. maculatus regarding Styrofoam, wood, and two types of bone. Specifically, this project tested 1.) whether the beetles showed preference for a particular material (of wood, Styrofoam, dry bone, or green bone), 2.) whether material(s) had an impact on survivorship from the larval to adult stages, and 3.) what traces dermestids leave on skeletal remains and the variation in form of those traces. Results suggest dermestid beetles will preferentially bore pupal chambers in softer materials (Styrofoam > wood > dry bone > green bone), but preference is not absolute, as pits appear in dry bone even when softer materials are present. Preference did not appear to impact survivorship. Information on the “typical” form of dermestid trace on materials is presented, as an aid to identifying these features as resulting from taphonomic processes, as opposed to ante- or perimortem processes/events.

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