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Biology of a dead goose

  1. Apr 1, 2007 #1
    This is a true story. A particular goose population around a small lake in West Florida has diminished over the years. Finally we were down to only three. They were always seen together whether swimming, feeding or sleeping.

    Finally one of the three succumbed right on the shore line. For days the remaining two lingered around the carcass, chasing away any ducks or other intruders. It was pathetic to watch and you got a sense of loss that they were feeling; whether there was any such feeling I don’t know.

    Finally I saw one of the two remaining geese actually standing on top of the carcass, sort of pecking on it. That was more than I could stand to watch so I walked down the shore to where they were with my shovel. I scooped up the carcass and brought it back to my yard and buried it. It was about a foot below the surface but I figured it was deep enough.

    The two remaining geese came along and so I put some flag stones over the grave so they wouldn’t dig at it. They stayed around for a few days but eventually wandered off after which I removed the flag stones. Actually they completely changed their natural hang out from before when there were three.

    So about two weeks has passed and I walked out in the yard and came across a large swarm of flies right over the grave.

    But these were not normal acting flies. They were attracted to the spot like little magnets, not seeming to want to fly off. They just hopped around on top of the three of four foot circle above the buried carcass.

    Upon closer examination I saw many of the flies were being attacked and eaten right there by ants. In fact it looked like a huge ant picnic. Many flies were dead and being eaten and many flies were disabled, with out wings, legs, etc. due to ant attacks.

    Here is what I think took place. The buried carcass attracted flies. They couldn’t lay their eggs directly on the carcass so they laid them in the soil above the carcass. The eggs hatched and didn’t have the food of the carcass but were hungry. They naturally developed into nearly full fledged files but weakening and still looking for their food supply. They could probably sense it there below the surface.

    The ants noticed the lingering flies and began their picnic.

    I imaging that the flies will all die there, the ants will clean them up, and the carcass below the surface will gradually decay and feed the worms.

    Does anyone have any other scenario that could be playing out?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 2, 2007 #2
    There is another possibility I guess. The flies laid their eggs on the carcass before I buried it, and then somehow dug their way out through a foot of topsoil.

    Just to update the observations one day later, there are still adult flies seemingly attracted to the burial site, but these are not the infant flies that I think must of emerged from the first generation of eggs laid on the surface.

    The infant flies with the wings that were not yet fully developed are gone, victims of the still very active ants.
  4. Apr 2, 2007 #3
    and u didn't manage to take a picture?
  5. Apr 2, 2007 #4
    I was under pressure. I took notes. Have I posted 1000 words yet? Maybe that would suffice in place of a pic?
  6. Apr 6, 2007 #5
    And another update: The poor lone goose was back today resting on the exact location of the burial, head tucked under her wing. It is a sad sight to watch. I am considering re-burying the dead goose.

    Should I? Of course if I do I would wait until the lone goose was out foraging so she wouldn't see it happen.
  7. Apr 10, 2007 #6
    Geese mate for life, so the lone goose is probably the mate. Reburying the dead one might not matter. Evidently (see link) each goose 'mourns' in it's own way and time.

    Is it possible that the third goose was a juvenile?

    Also, mating season has just ended, which might have some affect on the goose's attachment to it's mate.

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