Insects make up more than half of the known animal species on our planet and they can be found in all kinds of habitat and feed on all kinds of nutrients. They can even be used in evidence in court cases. So we are talking about forensic entomology.
The work of the Forensic Entomology Service in the Department of Zoology and Animal Cell Biology at the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) involves drawing up a census of insect species of forensic interest. These are basically necrophagous diptera, i.e. flies that live on dead tissue, cadavers. Such flies detect a dead body in a question of minutes and at times at a distance of several kilometres. They colonise the cadaver and lay their eggs there. In a matter of hours the larvae are born and the new individuals begin to develop, feeding off the cadaver until they reach full size.
Fly larvae, once developed and when about to pass to the adult stage, abandon the dead body because their predators are around. This is why, by the time a crime is investigated, there may be no insect larvae. But there may be other insects in the area which can also provide clues.
After studies of development, succession studies have to be undertaken, i.e. we try to see what lands on the cadaver over the succeeding days. This is where things become quite complicated especially in the Basque Country where there is scant knowledge about necrophagous insects that exist and that colonise dead bodies, or about what their cycle of developments are and their distribution patterns.
Colonisers of cadavers
The UPV-EHU researchers are working on identifying these colonisers of cadavers and their life and development cycles. The first task is fieldwork and setting traps that have bait to attract those insects of interest to the study (those that eat the remains of decomposing animal flesh). They place animal visceras they smell strongly and attract a lot of these kinds of insects as bait, m
Contact: Irati Kortabitarte