How do animal bones decompose?
Try 3 issues of BBC Science Focus Magazine for £5!
Bones do decay, just at a slower rate than other organic material. Depending on the conditions, this process usually takes a few years.
Asked by: Ned Ludgate, by email
Bones are largely a fibrous matrix of collagen fibres, impregnated with calcium phosphate. In warm, damp environments, bacteria and fungi will attack the collagen protein and the skeleton will crumble over the course of a few years.
Calcium phosphate isn’t attacked by micro-organisms, but it reacts readily with acid, so bones decompose fastest in well aerated, peaty soils.
Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.
- Try your first 6 issues for just £9.99 when you subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine.
- Risk - free offer! Cancel at any time when you subscribe via Direct Debit.
- FREE UK delivery.
- Stay up to date with the latest developments in the worlds of science and technology.