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      Entomological identification of the post-mortem colonization of wolf cadavers in different decomposition stages.

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          Human-driven biodiversity loss is progressively becoming a problem with dramatic consequences for the conservation of vital ecosystems. The increasing number of illegal killings of the grey wolf (Canis lupus, Linnaeus, 1758), a threatened species, displays the need for investigation and prosecution of such offences. Forensic entomology makes use of the knowledge about necrophagous insects to estimate a minimum time-since-death interval of the deceased person or animal, which can give important information on a possible perpetrator. The cadaver fauna along five decomposition stages of wolves in Germany was investigated in the period 2014-2021. The insects from 70 wolf cadavers, originating from all over Germany, were provided by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research Berlin. The accumulated degree day (ADD) model was applied for the post-mortem interval estimation on wolf cadavers for the first time. A total of 20 coleopteran species and 14 different dipteran species were discovered and identified. Almost 99 % of all insect specimens were from the order of Diptera, and beetles (Coleoptera) accounted for only 1 % of the cadaver fauna. The blowflies (Calliphoridae) are of particular importance for forensic issues, accounting for about 66 % of all families. Carrion beetles (Silphidae) were found as the second most abundant family (about 21 %). In addition, combining all cases, a steadily increasing insect species richness S was detected from early decay to advanced decay (fresh S = 8; bloated S = 12; active decay S = 21; advanced decay S = 34). In the following remains stage, the species number decreased again (S = 24). However, no significant difference in the number of species was found between the stages of decay when the cases were considered individually. The temporal pattern of insect appearance was found to be congruent with those of previous studies. Furthermore, a time of death was determined for each case and compared to the pathologist's estimates. This study provides insights into the arthropod fauna of wolf remains for the first time, applies the ADD-Model for post-mortem interval estimation, and discusses the suitability of forensic entomology for wildlife death investigations.

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          Author and article information

          Sci Justice
          Science & justice : journal of the Forensic Science Society
          Elsevier BV
          Sep 2022
          : 62
          : 5
          [1 ] Department of Wildlife Diseases, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany. Electronic address: roeglinantonia@aol.com.
          [2 ] Department of Wildlife Diseases, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany.
          [3 ] Institute of Legal Medicine, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany.
          [4 ] Institute of Legal Medicine, University Medical Center Hamburg Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany.

          Post-mortem interval,Illegal killings,Free-ranging wolf,Threatened Species,Central Europe,Forensic entomology


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