September 28, 2012 12:03 pm
If you’ve spent any time with the range of forensic science or criminal investigation television shows that inhabit the airwaves these days, you’re likely familiar with the field of forensic entomology. When a body is exposed to the elements for long enough, different species of bugs will move in to what is, from their perspective, a new potential habitat. Different bugs arrive on the scene at different times and typically in a predictable order. By looking at what bugs have moved in, forensic scientists can estimate the time of the person’s death.
When Mexican police found a body in the woods it was burned beyond recognition, its DNA too damaged to be used for identification. Luckily, investigators were able to extract DNA from elsewhere – the digestive systems of maggots that had been feeding on the body. This is the first time that human DNA from a maggot gut has been analysed in this way to successfully identify a victim in a legal case.
By analyzing the DNA pulled from maggots that had taken up residency at the crime scene, the scientists were able to identify that the body belonged to a woman. Comparing the DNA with the father of an abducted woman, they were able to identify that it was in fact the man’s daughter.
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