Comparison of Forensically Significant Carrion Insects at Buried vs. Surface Remains in Northern Virginia




Kline, Sonja K.

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Several factors complicate using necrophagous and other forensically important insects to determine a post-mortem interval in death investigations. First, insects demonstrate wide temporal ranges and spatial diversity, making it difficult to predict which species will be present. Secondly, carrion insects have consistent patterns in carcass size preference, and such patterns may indicate that dismembered remains, which represent smaller food sources, have different patterns of succession than those documented for whole cadavers. Although carrion insect succession has been well documented on whole human and porcine remains, there is limited documentation of insect succession for sectioned, or dismembered, remains. This study compares data collected from dismembered porcine remains in Central Virginia to published data for whole cadavers. Additionally, data was collected from surface-deposited dismembered and from buried remains to address differences between whole and dismembered remains under both types of conditions. Results of my study suggest that while fauna on surface dismembered remains followed a consistent successional pattern, the insects present were typical of later stages of decomposition on whole bodies. Surface dismembered remains also showed higher abundances of different Diptera taxa, such as Heleomyzidae, Sepsidae, and Phoridae, compared to the most common families – Calliphoridae, Muscidae, and Sarcophagidae – traditionally reported for whole remains. Additionally, the final amounts of tissue remaining were similar for both surface-deposited and buried dismembered remains, suggesting that smaller body parts may decompose equally rapidly regardless of the level of activity of insects or the diversity of arthropod fauna. Finally, fauna on buried remains consisted of understudied taxa that recent studies show have species-specific food preferences, and therefore, that might be of forensic significance, such as Collembola, Mycetophilidae, and Acariformes mites.



Forensics, Entomology, Carrion