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Forensic Sci Int. 2012 Jul 10;220(1-3):251-64. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2012.03.012. Epub 2012 Apr 10.

Virtual forensic entomology: improving estimates of minimum post-mortem interval with 3D micro-computed tomography.

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Department of Entomology, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Rd, London SW7 5BD, UK.


We demonstrate how micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) can be a powerful tool for describing internal and external morphological changes in Calliphora vicina (Diptera: Calliphoridae) during metamorphosis. Pupae were sampled during the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarter of development after the onset of pupariation at 23 °C, and placed directly into 80% ethanol for preservation. In order to find the optimal contrast, four batches of pupae were treated differently: batch one was stained in 0.5M aqueous iodine for 1 day; two for 7 days; three was tagged with a radiopaque dye; four was left unstained (control). Pupae stained for 7d in iodine resulted in the best contrast micro-CT scans. The scans were of sufficiently high spatial resolution (17.2 μm) to visualise the internal morphology of developing pharate adults at all four ages. A combination of external and internal morphological characters was shown to have the potential to estimate the age of blowfly pupae with a higher degree of accuracy and precision than using external morphological characters alone. Age specific developmental characters are described. The technique could be used as a measure to estimate a minimum post-mortem interval in cases of suspicious death where pupae are the oldest stages of insect evidence collected.

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