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Use of microRNA to Determine the Age of Forensically Relevant Blow Fly Pupae

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Medicolegal forensic entomology is the study of insects to aid with legal investigations (Gemmellaro, 2017). Insect evidence can be used to provide information such as the post-mortem interval (PMI). Blow flies are especially useful as these insects are primary colonizers,

Medicolegal forensic entomology is the study of insects to aid with legal investigations (Gemmellaro, 2017). Insect evidence can be used to provide information such as the post-mortem interval (PMI). Blow flies are especially useful as these insects are primary colonizers, quickly arriving at a corpse (Malainey & Anderson, 2020). The age of blow flies found at a scene is used to calculate the PMI. Blow fly age can be estimated using weather data as these insects are poikilothermic (Okpara, 2018). Morphological analysis also can be used to estimate age; however, it is more difficult with pupal samples as the pupae exterior does not change significantly as development progresses (Bala & Sharma, 2016). Gene regulation analysis can estimate the age of samples. MicroRNAs are short noncoding RNA that regulate gene expression (Cannell et al., 2008). Here, we aim to catalog miRNAs expressed during the development of three forensically relevant blow fly species preserved in several storage conditions. Results demonstrated that various miRNA sequences were differentially expressed across pupation. Expression of miR92b increased during mid pupation, aga-miR-92b expression increased during early pupation, and bantam, miR957, and dana-bantam-RA expression increased during late pupation. These results suggest that microRNA can be used to estimate the age of pupal samples as miRNA expression changes throughout pupation. Future work could develop a statistical model to accurately determine age using miRNA expression patterns.

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2021-05

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Determination of the Thermal Maxima of Phormia regina (Meigen) Larvae

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Forensic entomology is the use of insects in legal investigations, and relies heavily upon calculating the time of colonization (TOC) of insects on remains using temperature-dependent growth rates. If a body is exposed to temperatures that exceed an insect’s critical

Forensic entomology is the use of insects in legal investigations, and relies heavily upon calculating the time of colonization (TOC) of insects on remains using temperature-dependent growth rates. If a body is exposed to temperatures that exceed an insect’s critical limit, TOC calculations could be severely affected. The determination of critical thermal limits of forensically-relevant insects is crucial, as their presence or absence could alter the overall postmortem interval (PMI) calculation. This study focuses on the larvae of Phormia regina (Meigen) (Diptera: Calliphoridae), a forensically relevant blow fly common across North America. Three populations were examined (Arizona, Colorado, and New Jersey), and five day old larvae were exposed to one of two temperatures, 39℃ or 45℃, for five hours. Across all colonies, the survival rate was lower at 45℃ than 39℃, in both larval and emerged adult stages. The Arizona colony experienced a harsher drop in survival rates at 45℃ than either the Colorado or New Jersey colonies. This research suggests that the range of 39℃ - 45℃ approaches the critical thermal limit for P. regina, but does not yet exhibit a near or complete failure of survivorship that a critical temperature would cause at this duration of time. However, there is opportunity for further studies to examine this critical temperature by investigating other temperatures within the 39℃ - 45℃ range and at longer durations of time in these temperatures.

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2022-05