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An Evaluation of Differentially Spliced Genes as Markers of Sex for Forensic Entomology

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Dated: 2020
Date Published

Since genetic mechanisms for sex are well studied in model flies and species of agricultural and medical importance, the current study exploited the sex-specifically spliced genes transformer (tra) and doublesex (dsx) in the sex determination pathway to optimize a sex identification assay for immatures.


Blow flies (Calliphoridae) are important medically and economically and are commonly used in forensics as temporal markers in death investigations. While phenotypic traits in adult flies can be sexually dimorphic, sex identification in immatures is difficult. Consequently, little is known about how sex may result in developmental disparities among sexes even though there are indications that they may be important in some instances. Using known primer sets for tra and with a novel one for dsx, the current study developed PCR assays for identifying sex in four forensically relevant Calliphoridae species: Lucilia sericata (Meigen), Lucilia cuprina (Wiedemann), Cochliomyia macellaria (Fabricius), and Chrysomya rufifacies (Macquart) and evaluated their performance. Band detection rates were found to range from 71 to 100 percent; call rates ranged from 90 to 100 percent; and no error was found when bands could be called. Such information is informative for purposes of testimony and in preparation for development studies. The developed assays will assist in further differentiating sexually dimorphic differences in development of the Calliphoridae and aid in more accurately estimating insect age when age predictive markers (size, development time, molecular expression) are sexually dimorphic. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020