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Age estimation during the blow fly intra-puparial period: a qualitative and quantitative approach using micro-computed tomography.


ABSTRACT: Minimum post-mortem interval (minPMI) estimates often rely on the use of developmental data from blow flies (Diptera: Calliphoridae), which are generally the first colonisers of cadavers and, therefore, exemplar forensic indicators. Developmental data of the intra-puparial period are of particular importance, as it can account for more than half of the developmental duration of the blow fly life cycle. During this period, the insect undergoes metamorphosis inside the opaque, barrel-shaped puparium, formed by the hardening and darkening of the third instar larval cuticle, which shows virtually no external changes until adult emergence. Regrettably, estimates based on the intra-puparial period are severely limited due to the lack of reliable, non-destructive ageing methods and are frequently based solely on qualitative developmental markers. In this study, we use non-destructive micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) for (i) performing qualitative and quantitative analyses of the morphological changes taking place during the intra-puparial period of two forensically relevant blow fly species, Calliphora vicina and Lucilia sericata, and (ii) developing a novel and reliable method for estimating insect age in forensic practice. We show that micro-CT provides age-diagnostic qualitative characters for most 10% time intervals of the total intra-puparial period, which can be used over a range of temperatures and with a resolution comparable to more invasive and time-consuming traditional imaging techniques. Moreover, micro-CT can be used to yield a quantitative measure of the development of selected organ systems to be used in combination with qualitative markers. Our results confirm micro-CT as an emerging, powerful tool in medico-legal investigations.

SUBMITTER: Martin-Vega D 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC5556140 | BioStudies | 2017-01-01

SECONDARY ACCESSION(S): 10.1007/s00414-017-1598-2

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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