Initial investigations of spectral measurements to estimate the time within stages of Protophormia terraenovae (Robineau-Desvoidy) (Diptera: Calliphoridae)

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Forensic Science International





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Current applications of forensic entomology to post-mortem interval estimations involve ageing the insects colonizing the remains based on minimum time to reach the oldest stage of development. Immature species of blow fly develop at a predictable rate to each stage of development in their lifecycle. Unfortunately, the minimum time to reach a stage of development can be a rather unrefined estimate of tenure on the body in the sometimes lengthy time frame of the later stages. In a successful attempt to narrow this time frame, daily spectral measurements of the immature stages of Protophormia terraenovae (Robineau-Desvoidy) raised at a mean temperature of 24.6 °C were collected and the functional data analysis was completed. Functional regressions and coefficient functions were examined for model prediction and generalization. P. terraenovae is a Holarctic species as well as an early colonizer of human remains and is therefore, an excellent indicator species in North American death investigations.

Spectral measurements can be used successfully to estimate the day of development in the third instar including post feeding stage. In the intra-puparial period, however, only the last day of development could be distinguished from the earlier days of the intra-puparial period. Distinguishing day within second instar is also possible for P. terraenovae raised at a mean temperature of 24.6 °C and, although not fully within the pointwise 95% confidence interval, it still accurately predicts the day.

The results of this proof of concept research are promising and show a potential method for narrowing the original death estimates and offering a better overall estimate of age of P. terraenovae larvae and, therefore; estimated time since death.


Protophormia terraenovae, Larval development, Hyperspectral, Remote sensing, Functional regression


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Justice Studies