The partially mummified body of a man has provided an unusual home for a motley crew of woodland creatures. Scientists discovered wasps, honeybees and even a squirrel nesting inside the corpse.
Researchers said the world-first discovery illustrates the unbridled resourcefulness of wildlife—that such creatures exploit even the most unlikely spaces to thrive. First discovered in 2016, researchers reported their findings last month in the journal Forensic Science International.
“No one before us had the opportunity to describe a case of nesting of these species of animals inside a human corpse found in a tree,” said study author Marcin Kadej from the Institute of Environmental Biology, University of Wroclaw, Poland, in a statement. “[The discovery] brings a new perspective and gives us new information on the behavior, ecology and biology of these animals.”
The body was found hanging some 80 feet from the ground in a forest in south-western Poland. The team thinks the corpse had remained undiscovered for about 13 years. The creatures were found when the body was transferred to Wroclaw Medical University’s Forensic Medicine Department.
A lack of scavengers, the position of the body and atmospheric conditions high above the ground all impacted its decay, researchers said. The man was wearing two pairs of pants, which also protected his body from weather and helped keep it bound together.
The unusual discovery will help biologists understand more about the behavior of bees, wasps and squirrels, Kadej said. “We know a lot about where they nest, how they grow, what they prefer, but this discovery shows us that human bodies, if they meet the requirements of these organisms, can be a ‘home’ for them,” he added.
The body resembled the hollow of an old tree—a critical woodland structure that offers excellent homes to many creatures throughout their life cycles, Kadej said. “I think that this case perfectly shows how important type of structure is in space,” he added.
In other strange animal news, scientists recently uncovered a mass grave of mummified penguins in Antarctica. Researchers think extreme weather was to blame for two separate mass die-offs, and fear an unstable climate will continue to threaten the birds.
But it’s not all doom and gloom in the animal kingdom. Researchers announced this week they had discovered three new species of snailfish living five miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean in the Atacama Trench. These small, smooth, translucent fish have adapted to the dark, high-pressure deep sea environment.