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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

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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Blow Flies and the American Diet:Effects of Fat Content on Blow Fly (Diptera: Calliphoridae) Development

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Forensic entomology is an important field of forensic science that utilizes insect evidence in criminal investigations. Blow flies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) are among the first colonizers of remains and are therefore

Forensic entomology is an important field of forensic science that utilizes insect evidence in criminal investigations. Blow flies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) are among the first colonizers of remains and are therefore frequently used in determining the minimum postmortem interval (mPMI). Blow fly development, however, is influenced by a variety of factors including temperature and feeding substrate type. Unfortunately, dietary fat content remains an understudied factor on the development process, which is problematic given the relatively high rates of obesity in the United States. To study the effects of fat content on blow fly development we investigated the survivorship, adult weight and development of Lucilia sericata (Meigen; Diptera: Calliphoridae) and Phormia regina (Meigen; Diptera: Calliphoridae) on ground beef with a 10%, 20%, or 27% fat content. As fat content increased, survivorship decreased across both species with P. regina being significantly impacted. While P. regina adults were generally larger than L. sericata across all fat levels, only L. sericata demonstrated a significant (P < 0.05) difference in weight by sex. Average total development times for P. regina are comparable to averages published in other literature. Average total development times for L. sericata, however, were nearly 50 hours higher. These findings provide insight on the effect of fat content on blow fly development, a factor that should be considered when estimating a mPMI. By understanding how fat levels affect the survivorship and development of the species studied here, we can begin improving the practice of insect evidence analysis in casework.

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  • 2021-05