Entomofauna of buried remains: Motter's 1898 "Fauna of the grave" revisited.

Whittington, Andrew E. (2016) Entomofauna of buried remains: Motter's 1898 "Fauna of the grave" revisited. In: 13th meeting of the European Association for Forensic Entomology, 25th-28th May 2016, Hungarian Natural History Museum and the University of Szent Istvan, Budapest, Hungary.

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Abstract

A metadata analysis was conducted on data that were presented in a past paper that appears to have gone largely unnoticed save for occasional comment of an uncritical nature. Data were derived from 123 graves of 150 disinterments that included invertebrate grave fauna, which Dr Murray Galt Motter carried out in 1898 form the City of Washington cemeteries. Approximately 75 taxa (including some undetermined to species) were assessed in Motter’s tables, from which the most informative group of thirteen species were extracted (representing the top 80.2% relative abundance). The remaining long tail of “singleton’s”, were mostly adventive species and incidental records that provide little context. The data analysis demonstrated clear patterns in faunal structure for the following parameters: month of interment, duration of interment, presence or absence of Adipocere, depth of grave, soil type and moisture content. These results confirm the prevalence of a small number of species restricted to particular conditions, which are discussed with reference to known ecological or behavior preferences for these species as well as a comparison with more modern research recorded in scientific literature. Adipocere generally excludes insects and those species prevalent in graves where it is absent sometimes occur in much lower abundance (sig. p < 1%). Lepismatidae and Eleusis pallida LeConte 1863 (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae, Osoriinae) demonstrated a preference for 1.52m grave depth, sandy-clay soil, wet to submerged grave conditions and burial in crypts (all sig. p < 1%). As is to be expected faunas are higher from interments conducted in summer months (April to June) with a secondary peak of activity in autumn months (August – October). The occurrence of the two most abundant taxa (Lepismatidae and Eleusis pallida) at a duration of interment of 8 years and Lepismatidae peaked a second time at 11 years. Gamasid mites (Uropoda depressa Banks in Motter 1898) peak at 5 years duration of interment and the Staphylinid Actobius umbripennis LeConte 1863 peaked twice at 5 and 8 years. Most other species fluctuated and demonstrated several or non-significant peaks. The prevalence of Lepismatidae, Eleusis pallida, U. depressa and Actobius umbripennis together with the less abundant members of this guild, suggest an association with fungal hypha, which may be the main food source for these species, rather than direct products of decomposition. Even so, the presence or absence of this guild helps inform forensic instances of burial taphonomy.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information: Webpage pertains to the conference programme and full list of abstracts for all speakers.
Divisions: Business and Law
Depositing User: Ms Kerry Kellaway
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2019 11:18
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2020 15:25
URI: http://marjon.repository.guildhe.ac.uk/id/eprint/17342

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