Field Documentation of Unusual Post-Mortem Arthropod Activity on Human Remains
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During a forensic investigation, the presence of physical marks on human remains can influence the interpretation of events related to the death of an individual. Some tissue injury on human remains can be misinterpreted as ante- or peri-mortem wounds by an investigator when in reality the markings resulted from post-mortem arthropod activity. Unusual entomological data were collected during a study examining the decomposition of a set of human remains in San Marcos, Texas. An adult female Pediodectes haldemani (Girard) (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae) and an Armadillidium cf. vulgare (Isopoda: Armadilidiidae) were documented feeding on the remains. Both arthropods produced physical marks or artifacts on the remains that could be misinterpreted as attack, abuse, neglect, or torture. Additionally, red imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), were observed constructing structures in the mark produced by the P. haldemani feeding. These observations provide insight into the potential of post-mortem arthropod damage to human remains, which previously had not been described for these taxa, and therefore, physical artifacts on any remains found in similar circumstances may result from arthropod activity and not ante- or peri-mortem wounds.
author list (cited authors)
Pechal, J. L., Benbow, M. E., Tomberlin, J. K., Crippen, T. L., Tarone, A. M., Singh, B., & Lenhart, P. A.