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Testing Reliability of Animal Models in Research and Training Programs in Forensic Entomology, Part II, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
32 pages

In this study three independent analyses bolstered results of an earlier NIJ-sponsored (National Institute of Justice) study and confirmed the conclusion that carrion-arthropods formed indistinct communities on human and pig subjects on select sets of days in the succession.


Study objectives were to test a size range of pigs (50-100 lbs) against replicate human bodies for differences in arthropod succession and decomposition; determine what collection techniques recovered the largest majority of forensically important insects; monitor the insect fauna present in eastern Tennessee during the summer for their potential use in future casework; and determine whether carrion-arthropod populations are indeed "saturated" at the Anthropological Research Facility (ARF) in Knoxville, Tenn., by virtue of its repeated and historic use as an outdoor forensic sciences laboratory. Replicate human (two) and pig subjects (six) were placed side-by-side on the same day and subjected to identical collection methods and exposure conditions over a 32-day period during summer. Several sampling methods for obtaining arthropod specimens were used; however, the results of only two methods (aerial net sweeps and pitfall traps) are reported, since they constituted the only "quantitative" samples deemed by the researchers to be amenable for statistical analysis. The tests showed little or no preferences by the carrion-arthropod community as a whole for pig or human tissues during most days of the succession. This result held even when comparisons involved pigs of different weight classes combined with human subjects. Rarefaction results confirmed the field intuitions of forensic entomologists that 50-lb pigs are reliable models of human corpses, insofar as having comparable densities of arthropod species is concerned. Consequently, the use of 50-lb pigs over the past 15 years by different research groups working in different habitats and latitudes apparently have provided opportunities for reliable cross-site comparisons as well as pig-human comparisons at least in those habitats where pig carcasses have been used. 6 references, 4 figures, and appended list of products and outcomes of NIJ awards in forensic entomology, and photographs of experimental units

Date Published: January 1, 2001