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What information can a forensic entomologist provide at the death scene?

Posted in Forensic Entomology & DNA Barcoding by paibiopai on November 23, 2009

Forensic entomologists are commonly called upon to determine the postmortem interval or “time since death” in homicide investigations.  More specifically, the forensic entomologist estimates a portion of the postmortem interval based on the age of the insect present.  This entomological based estimation is most commonly called the “Time Since Colonization”.  Based on the factors in a particular investigation, this may, or may not, closely approximate the entire postmortem interval.  In either case, it is the duty of the Forensic Pathologist, Medical Examiner, or Coroner to estimate the postmortem interval, and the Forensic Entomologist may assist them in providing information on the “time since colonization”, which can ultimately be used to substantiate a portion of the postmortem interval.

The forensic entomologist can use a number of different techniques including species succession, larval weight, larval length, and a more technical method known as the accumulated degree hour technique which can be very precise if the necessary data is available.  A qualified forensic entomologist can also make inferences as to possible postmortem movement of a corpse.  Some flies prefer specific habitats such as a distinct preference for laying their eggs in an outdoor or indoor environment.   Flies can also exhibit preferences for carcasses in shade or sunlit conditions of the (more…)

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