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Fireflies (Lampyris nocticula L., Coleoptera: Lampyridae) an adventive forensic insect

Magni, P.A. and Fico, R. (2009) Fireflies (Lampyris nocticula L., Coleoptera: Lampyridae) an adventive forensic insect. In: 7th Meeting European Association for Forensic Entomology (EAFE), 9 - 12 June 2009, Uppsala, Sweden.

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Abstract

The application of forensic entomology in criminal cases is mostly focused on the presence of flies on a corpse which are useful in determining an accurate estimate of the PMI. However, entomology from time to time is useful in other ways such as whether a body has been displaced after death or in the peri-mortem period. Two bear carcasses were found not far from the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise (Central Italy). The necroscopy and toxicological examinations confirmed that the bears had died as a consequence of ingesting food poisoned with zinc phosphide (Zn3P2). Zinc phosphide is a chemical compound used to control rodents, but it is also used by poachers as baits to poison different animals. Death occurs in 24-48 hours so the poisoned animal may be able to move some distance from the place of poisoning. As a consequence the investigation covered a large territory which was time consuming and costly in terms of resources. In order to restrict the investigation it was decided to perform botanical and entomological analyses of the stomach contents of the bears. The flora in the stomach was not useful as it was all classified as belonging to cosmopolitan species. However, amongst the gut contents a firefly larvae (Coleoptera: Lampyridae) was found. During the larval period fireflies are carnivorous and they live in high humidity environments where snails are their food source. Prior to chemicals being used to control snails fireflies were common in cultivated fields, but as a consequence their presence now is more localized. When the investigation shifted to an examination of these environments the person responsible was located. This case shows us the importance of the entomofauna at specific localities, helping to pinpoint where the crime took place. Furthermore, it demonstrates that investigators need to think laterally because you never know what might be useful evidence in a forensic case.

Item Type: Conference Item
Conference Website: http://www.eafe.org/
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/57674
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