Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Grand Exhibit Hall (Town and Country Hotel and Convention Center)
From March of 2009 to March of 2010 a survey of the insect taxa associated with the decomposition of 14 cadavers was conducted at the Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility (STAFS) located in the Center for Biological Field Studies of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Tx. STAFS is located in the Pineywoods Ecoregion which is characterized by a subtropical climate, large distribution of pine trees and acidic soils. During the course of this study three previously undocumented insect-cadaver interactions were observed. Donation STAFS003 was buried in May 2009 and partially exhumed in September of 2009. After exhumation, the shallow grave filled and drained repeatedly with rainwater. While partially submerged in stagnant water, rat-tailed maggots (Diptera: Syrphidae) were observed feeding on the cadaver in November of 2009. Donation STAFS007 was placed outside above ground in October of 2009. Panorpa nuptialis Gerstaecker, 1863 (Mecoptera: Panorpidae) were the first insects observed to arrive at the body and fed upon the areas of seepage associated with the autopsy. Panorpa nuptialis outnumbered Calliphoridae for the first 24 hours of the experiment. Donation STAFS009 was placed outside above ground in November of 2009; the toenails were removed within 48 hours by unobserved faunal activity. A caterpillar (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) was observed feeding on the dislodged skin flakes around where the toenails were once located. Baseline knowledge of insect-cadaver interactions are the foundation of forensic entomology and unique observations have the potential to expand our understanding of human decomposition.