the forensic institute

Student Projects: The Forensic Institute Research Network (FIRN)

Pigs as a model for humans in forensic entomology studies

Forensic entomology studies have been carried out by researchers on a wide variety of animal species, but the most widely used animal model is the domestic pig (Sus scrofa domestica) for economical, ethical and physiological reasons. However, it is likely that in the future, courts may question the validity of scientific research carried out on porcine rather than human cadavers, especially where post-mortem interval estimations are being used in criminal cases. Therefore it is important that the use of pig cadavers as a model for human cadavers is validated.

In July 2008, a pig vs. human study was carried out at the Anthropological Research Facility in Knoxville, Tennessee. Three 45kg pig cadavers and three adult male human cadavers were laid naked on the ground in three pig-human pairs, 50m apart. Insect samples were collected twice daily, both manually and using sticky traps, to determine the succession of insects and the developmental rate of blowfly larvae on the different cadavers.

Results show that the composition of insects and rates of blowfly larval development were comparable between pig and human cadavers, validating the hypothesis that the domestic pig is a good model for humans in estimating the minimum post-mortem interval using Forensic Entomology methods.

Amoret P. Whitaker 1,2 and MARTIN J. R. HALL 1

1 Natural History Museum, London, 2King’s College London. Contact:

Oral presentations

Cognitive style, processing sets and face recall >>

The Scanning Kelvin Probe (SKP) for the visualisation of fingerprints on metal surfaces >>

Investigation into the user of parallel processing techniques to speed up file carving using Graphical Processing Units (GPUs) >>

Assessment of the validity of using pigs as a model for humans in forensic entomology studies >>

Chemical processes at fingerprint-metal interfaces >>

Determination of visual thresholds of image usefulness in fingerprint compression >>

The use of ion beams for forensic analysis >>

General purpose graphics processing units in security >>

An investigation into the use of dehydration as a method of preserving dna in biological forensic samples >>

Real world detection of cocaine at the picogram level in an urban environment >>