Advanced Research on Forensic Entomology

A special issue of Insects (ISSN 2075-4450). This special issue belongs to the section "Role of Insects in Human Society".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 November 2022) | Viewed by 23016

Special Issue Editors

Department of Biology, Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Calabria, 87036 Cosenza, Italy
Interests: insect ecology; taxonomy; forensic entomology; medical entomology; coleoptera; diptera; saproxilic; saproxylic beetles; insect morphology; insect behavior; myiasis
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Department of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, University of Ferrara, 44121 Ferrara, Italy
Interests: medical and veterinary entomology; forensic entomology; myiasis; houseflies; insect morphology; ectoparasites
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues, 

In advanced forensic entomology, a multidisciplinary approach has an increasing importance because it involves fields such as taxonomy, legal and veterinary medicine, morphology, molecular biology (DNA barcoding), and applications of new techniques. Examples of this multidisciplinary approach include studies on the biology and ecology of necrophagous species that are also predators of other necrophagous insects. These species may interfere with the colonization of human and animal bodies by insects of forensic interest, relevant to estimate the post-mortem interval (PMI), or with the forensic evaluation of post-mortem damages. These studies should also consider the role of other species reported in human and animal bodies of which the possible forensic relevance has not been ascertained.

This Special Issue will include original research articles as well as case reports involving a multidisciplinary approach and a complete taxonomic identification of the species involved. The Issue will also include experimental studies on animal models in different conditions and environments, aiming to obtain experimental evidence on the succession of species colonizing corpses and up-to-date approaches using new techniques.

Dr. Teresa Bonacci
Dr. Marco Pezzi
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • necrophagous species
  • colonization interference
  • multidisciplinary approach
  • successional pattern
  • decay stages
  • post-mortem interval
  • post-mortem damages
  • morphology
  • DNA barcoding
  • animal models

Published Papers (9 papers)

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13 pages, 4877 KiB  
Article
Dermestes (s.str.) haemorrhoidalis (Coleoptera: Dermestidae)—The Most Frequent Species on Mummified Human Corpses in Indoor Conditions? Three Cases from Southwestern Poland
Insects 2023, 14(1), 23; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects14010023 - 25 Dec 2022
Viewed by 3873
Abstract
Beetles of the family Dermestidae, especially of the genus Dermestes Linnaeus, 1758, are often identified on corpses in late stages of decomposition. They usually feed on remains devoid of organs and soft tissues or when the corpses undergo mummification. In Europe, eight species [...] Read more.
Beetles of the family Dermestidae, especially of the genus Dermestes Linnaeus, 1758, are often identified on corpses in late stages of decomposition. They usually feed on remains devoid of organs and soft tissues or when the corpses undergo mummification. In Europe, eight species from two subgenera Dermestes and Dermestinus Zhantiev, 1967, have so far been identified on human corpses. Despite the relatively frequent presence of Dermestes sp. in experimental studies conducted in Poland, no reports concerning Dermestes directly collected from human corpses have been published to date. This article again describes observations of Dermestidae collected from human corpses found in indoor conditions in Wrocław, the capital of the Dolnośląskie Voivodeship. For the second time, there is evidence of the presence of Dermestes (s.str.) haemorrhoidalis on human corpses—a species considered to be relatively rare, as evidenced by faunistic data published from Poland, as well as the results of ongoing experiments of forensic interest. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Research on Forensic Entomology)
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15 pages, 980 KiB  
Article
High Temperature Limits of Survival and Oviposition of Phormia regina (Meigen) and Lucilia sericata (Meigen)
Insects 2022, 13(11), 991; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13110991 - 28 Oct 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1417
Abstract
The temperature dependent development rates of blow flies allow blow flies to be used as biological clocks in forensic death investigations. However, the upper thermal limits of adult survival and oviposition, both required for producing larvae, remains largely unknown. Therefore, in this study [...] Read more.
The temperature dependent development rates of blow flies allow blow flies to be used as biological clocks in forensic death investigations. However, the upper thermal limits of adult survival and oviposition, both required for producing larvae, remains largely unknown. Therefore, in this study we examined the impact of a range of temperatures between 37 °C and 44 °C on the likelihood of survival and egg-laying behavior of two species of medicolegal forensic importance, Lucilia sericata (Meigen) and Phormia regina (Meigen) (Diptera: Calliphoridae). To quantify the upper temperature limits of survival, adult fly colonies were exposed to 37 °C, 41 °C, 42 °C, 43 °C, and 44 °C for 24 h. Similarly for oviposition trials, adults of both species were exposed to 40 °C, 42 °C, and 43 °C with P. regina oviposition also observed at 41 °C. Trials lasted for 24 h with oviposition substrate replenished at the 12 h mark. A yes/no determination on egg deposition was made, eggs were counted, and a yes/no determination was made on egg hatch. Survival did not differ by species (p = 0.096). Overall, survival decreased with increasing temperatures, with ~100% at 37 °C, ~50% at 41 °C, ~37% at 42 °C, ~15% at 43 °C and 0% at 44 °C. Lucilia sericata laid eggs capable of hatch up to 43 °C, while Phormia regina egg-hatch was observed up to 41 °C. These results indicate a greater thermal tolerance of adult survival than for egg deposition and successful egg hatch, which supports previous experiments indicating blow flies stop laying eggs at sub-lethal temperatures. Furthermore, these data indicate that adult blow flies may find remains at or near time of death but may delay egg deposition until temperatures drop below an acceptable threshold. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Research on Forensic Entomology)
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14 pages, 1154 KiB  
Article
Not by the Book: Observations of Delayed Oviposition and Re-Colonization of Human Remains by Blow Flies
Insects 2022, 13(10), 879; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13100879 - 28 Sep 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1574
Abstract
Postmortem interval estimations can be complicated by the inter-individual variation present in human decomposition. Forensic entomologists may especially face challenges interpreting arthropod evidence in scenarios that are not “by the book”, or that vary in unexpected ways. Therefore, it is important to report [...] Read more.
Postmortem interval estimations can be complicated by the inter-individual variation present in human decomposition. Forensic entomologists may especially face challenges interpreting arthropod evidence in scenarios that are not “by the book”, or that vary in unexpected ways. Therefore, it is important to report instances where blow fly colonization does not align with expected soft tissue decomposition as blow fly larvae are often used to produce a time of colonization (TOC) estimation to infer a minimum PMI. We followed the decomposition and blow fly activity of three human donors at the Anthropology Research Facility (University of Tennessee). Delayed oviposition occurred on one donor 115 d post-placement, whereas two donors experienced blow fly re-colonization after cessation of the consumption phase, one 22 d and one more than 200 d after blow fly larvae were last observed. A null hypothesis model tested whether the entomological TOC and anthropological total body score (TBS) estimations encompassed the time of placement (TOP) for each donor. While the null hypothesis was rejected for all TOC estimations, it could not be rejected for the TBS estimations. We discuss how the non-linear nature of human decomposition can pose challenges to interpreting blow fly evidence and suggest that forensic entomology practitioners should recognize these limitations in both research endeavors and applied casework. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Research on Forensic Entomology)
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13 pages, 826 KiB  
Article
Life Cycle and Biometric Study of Hydrotaea capensis (Wiedemann, 1818) (Diptera, Muscidae), a Species of Forensic Interest
Insects 2022, 13(6), 531; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13060531 - 09 Jun 2022
Viewed by 1929
Abstract
One of the most important and perhaps most used applications of forensic entomology concerns the estimation of the minimum post-mortem interval (minPMI), defined as the time interval between death and the actual finding of a corpse. Some Diptera species are critical in these [...] Read more.
One of the most important and perhaps most used applications of forensic entomology concerns the estimation of the minimum post-mortem interval (minPMI), defined as the time interval between death and the actual finding of a corpse. Some Diptera species are critical in these studies because they are the first ones capable of detecting and finding a corpse and are selectively attracted by its decomposing status. Thus, the knowledge of the micromorphology of their preimaginal stages and of their life cycles within a time frame constitutes solid indicators for estimating the minPMI. Hydrotaea capensis is a Muscidae of forensic interest usually considered as a late colonizer of corpses. It is widely distributed, living mainly in warm regions, and present in a wide variety of habitats. In this study, the H. capensis life cycle was studied at four constant temperatures, 18°, 20°, 25° and 30 °C, by recording the duration of its different developmental stages, including the length reached in each larval stage, as well as some biometric characteristics of the emerged adults. Significant differences were observed in the average time of development of most larval stages, with a longer duration at low temperatures, and in the length of each larval stage depending on the temperature, but, in this case, without a clear pattern. Moreover, significant differences were found in some alar features, pointing to them as a relevant indicator to be considered. The data provided will assist forensic entomologists to make more accurate minPMI estimations in cases where H. capensis is present. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Research on Forensic Entomology)
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19 pages, 6360 KiB  
Article
Temporal Expression Profiles Reveal Potential Targets during Postembryonic Development of Forensically Important Sarcophaga peregrina (Diptera: Sarcophagidae)
Insects 2022, 13(5), 453; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13050453 - 12 May 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1763
Abstract
Sarcophaga peregrina (Robineau-Desvoidy, 1830) is a species of medical and forensic importance. In order to investigate the molecular mechanism during postembryonic development and identify specific genes that may serve as potential targets, transcriptome analysis was used to investigate its gene expression dynamics from [...] Read more.
Sarcophaga peregrina (Robineau-Desvoidy, 1830) is a species of medical and forensic importance. In order to investigate the molecular mechanism during postembryonic development and identify specific genes that may serve as potential targets, transcriptome analysis was used to investigate its gene expression dynamics from the larval to pupal stages, based on our previous de novo-assembled genome of S. peregrina. Totals of 2457, 3656, 3764, and 2554 differentially expressed genes were identified. The specific genes encoding the structural constituent of cuticle were significantly differentially expressed, suggesting that degradation and synthesis of cuticle-related proteins might actively occur during metamorphosis. Molting (20-hydroxyecdysone, 20E) and juvenile (JH) hormone pathways were significantly enriched, and gene expression levels changed in a dynamic pattern during the developmental stages. In addition, the genes in the oxidative phosphorylation pathway were significantly expressed at a high level during the larval stage, and down-regulated from the wandering to pupal stages. Weighted gene co-expression correlation network analysis (WGCNA) further demonstrated the potential regulation mechanism of tyrosine metabolism in the process of puparium tanning. Moreover, 10 consistently up-regulated genes were further validated by qRT-PCR. The utility of the models was then examined in a blind study, indicating the ability to predict larval development. The developmental, stage-specific gene profiles suggest novel molecular markers for age prediction of forensically important flies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Research on Forensic Entomology)
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18 pages, 2821 KiB  
Article
Development of Necrobia ruficollis (Fabricius) (Coleoptera: Cleridae) under Different Constant Temperatures
Insects 2022, 13(4), 319; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13040319 - 24 Mar 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2145
Abstract
Necrobia ruficollis (Fabricius, 1775) (Coleoptera: Cleridae) is an important cosmopolitan storage pest, and also frequently appears on highly decomposed and skeletonized corpses. It is a forensically important species expected to indicate a longer postmortem interval (PMI). Therefore, we investigated the development of N. [...] Read more.
Necrobia ruficollis (Fabricius, 1775) (Coleoptera: Cleridae) is an important cosmopolitan storage pest, and also frequently appears on highly decomposed and skeletonized corpses. It is a forensically important species expected to indicate a longer postmortem interval (PMI). Therefore, we investigated the development of N. ruficollis at five constant temperatures between 22 °C and 34 °C. Under temperatures of 22, 25, 28, 31, and 34 °C, the mean (±SD) developmental durations from eggs to adults were 93.00 ± 1.63, 70.67 ± 0.94, 65.33 ± 3.40, 47.33 ± 0.94, and 56.66 ± 8.73 days, respectively. According to the developmental time and accumulated degree hours results, an isomorphen diagram and thermal summation model were generated. The calculated values of developmental threshold temperature and accumulated temperature constant were estimated by a linear model to be 14.51 ± 0.52 °C and 684.12 ± 33.85 degree days, respectively. Lower developmental thresholds, intrinsic optimum temperature, and upper lethal developmental threshold temperature were estimated by a nonlinear model to be 14.61, 25.90, and 34.94 °C. Morphological indexes of larvae were obtained by in vivo measurements. A growth curve and an equation of the relationship between development time and body length were simulated. In addition, the widths of the head capsules and the distance between the urogomphi of larvae at different instars were determined by cluster analysis. Classifiers were created and validated by linear discriminant analysis. These results provide important basic developmental data for using N. ruficollis to estimate the minimum postmortem interval (minimum PMI). However, this study was only conducted under constant temperature, and the applicability of these data to variable temperature conditions needs to be further confirmed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Research on Forensic Entomology)
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13 pages, 1464 KiB  
Article
Biodiversity of Forensically Relevant Blowflies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) at the Anthropology Research Facility in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
Insects 2022, 13(2), 109; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13020109 - 18 Jan 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3226
Abstract
Understanding the biodiversity and distribution of forensically relevant blowflies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) in a region can aid in legal investigations when insects are associated with remains. For this purpose, we conducted a 14-month-long blowfly survey at the Anthropology Research Facility (ARF) of the University [...] Read more.
Understanding the biodiversity and distribution of forensically relevant blowflies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) in a region can aid in legal investigations when insects are associated with remains. For this purpose, we conducted a 14-month-long blowfly survey at the Anthropology Research Facility (ARF) of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee. Traps baited with pork kidney were deployed for 24 h twice a month throughout the study. A total of 3180 adult blowflies were collected, comprising 13 species from 7 genera. Phormia regina (Meigen) and Lucilia coeruleiviridis (Macquart) were the predominant species collected from this survey, with collections representing 65.9% and 20.6%of total flies captured, respectively. In addition to relative abundance, we investigated blowfly community composition, species abundance, richness, and diversity by season. One state record was identified, with adult Protophormia terraenovae (Robineau-Desvoidy) being collected for the first time in Tennessee. Additionally, an earlier record of Chrysomya megacephala (Fabricius) in Tennessee was noted. These findings can be used to aid in legal investigations in the area and surrounding areas where work is limited, as well as to provide information on which forensically relevant species should be the subject of future research in the area. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Research on Forensic Entomology)
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10 pages, 904 KiB  
Article
Is Forensic Entomology Lost in Space?
Insects 2022, 13(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13010011 - 22 Dec 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2524
Abstract
Spatial and scale effects have barely been considered in forensic entomology, despite their pervasive influence on most of the parameters affecting the development of insect larval stages and the progression of insect succession on cadavers. Here, we used smoothing/interpolation techniques and semivariograms to [...] Read more.
Spatial and scale effects have barely been considered in forensic entomology, despite their pervasive influence on most of the parameters affecting the development of insect larval stages and the progression of insect succession on cadavers. Here, we used smoothing/interpolation techniques and semivariograms to document the spatial dynamics of sarcosaprophageous Calliphoridae, an important forensic taxon, in the Greater Moncton area in New Brunswick, Canada. Results indicated that the spatial dynamics of Calliphoridae differed between species, some species showing strong patterns of regional aggregation while others did not. Multivariate spatial correlations indicated that interspecific relationships in space varied widely, ranging from local and large-scale aggregation to spatial anticorrelation between species. Overall, this study suggested that even within a restricted timescale, the spatial dynamics of Calliphoridae can operate at many scales, manifest in different patterns, and be attributed to multiple different causes. We stress that forensic entomology has much to benefit from the use of spatial analysis because many important forensic questions, both at the fundamental and practical levels, require a spatial solution. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Research on Forensic Entomology)
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10 pages, 19949 KiB  
Case Report
The Postmortem Interval of Two Decedents and Two Dog Carcasses at the Same Scene Based on Forensic Entomology
Insects 2022, 13(2), 215; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13020215 - 21 Feb 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2254
Abstract
In this paper, we report the estimation of the minimum PMIs of two human corpses and two dog carcasses using entomological evidence. Corpses of an elderly couple and carcasses of four dogs were found scattered on different floors in a house. The scene [...] Read more.
In this paper, we report the estimation of the minimum PMIs of two human corpses and two dog carcasses using entomological evidence. Corpses of an elderly couple and carcasses of four dogs were found scattered on different floors in a house. The scene was very dirty. In addition, there were 12 emaciated live dogs at the scene. The corpses had been eaten by the dogs to different degrees, but the damage was greater on the man’s corpse. After forensic examination, it was concluded that both individuals died of natural causes. The minimum PMIs of the two individuals and the two dogs were estimated using entomological evidence. The minimum PMIs of the other two dogs were not estimated because of the risk of contamination with the human corpses. Different insect species were found on each of the corpses and carcasses. The minimum PMIs were estimated as about 8.75 days for the woman, 4.17 days for the man, 3.13 days for the dog found in the stairwell and about 28.80 days for the dog found in the toilet. These estimations coincided with the time the woman stopped communicating with her daughter and when the electricity consumption at the house decreased significantly. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Research on Forensic Entomology)
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