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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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