Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification
 
 

Key to Forensically Important Piophilidae (Diptera) in the Nearctic Region

CJAI 27 -- January 22, 2015
doi:10.3752/cjai.2015.27

Sabrina Rochefort, Marjolaine Giroux, Jade Savage and Terry A. Wheeler

 

| Abstract | Introduction | Materials & Methods | Identification Challenges | Checklist | Key to Piophilidae | Acknowledgments | References | PDF | Cite |
 
 

Introduction

Forensic entomology is the use of insects and other arthropods as evidence in legal investigations (Catts & Goff 1992). An important aspect of the discipline involves the estimation of the postmortem interval (PMI) based on arthropods associated with a body, an approach that requires extensive knowledge of the local fauna and its association with carrion at different decomposition stages and under different conditions (Goff 2000, Amendt et al. 2011). Necrophagous flies (Diptera) are of forensic importance as they often appear on a body first, consume most of the tissues, and display similar patterns of succession in different regions of the world, at least at the family level (Catts & Goff 1992, Amendt et al. 2011).

The family Piophilidae contains 82 species worldwide (Pape et al. 2009), at least 37 of which are present in the Nearctic region (McAlpine 1977). Several species can be found on dung, bone, garbage, decaying vegetation, fungi, bird nests and discarded antlers (Melander & Spuler 1917, McAlpine 1977, Bonduriansky & Brooks 1999a). Other species are associated with carrion in a range of decomposition stages and are therefore relevant to forensic entomology (Greenberg 1991, Byrd & Castner 2001). Depending on the locality, adult Piophilidae are mostly seen throughout the bloated and decay stages (Johnson 1975, Fiedler et al. 2008, Prado e Castro et al. 2012) while the larvae are more common in the advanced (Martín-Vega et al. 2011) and dry/remain stages (Martinez et al. 2006, Grisales et al. 2010).

Identifying species of forensic importance can sometimes be challenging when using morphological characters alone (Byrd & Castner 2001, Amendt et al. 2011) and alternatives such as DNA markers have been developed to identify problematic specimens (Wells & Stevens 2008). While molecular techniques can be a useful complement to morphology-based specimen identification, they do not always yield correct or unambiguous identification results (e.g. Whitworth et al. 2007) and require access to equipment, facilities and funding for molecular analysis; thus, morphology-based regional keys remain time- and cost-effective tools for the identification of most forensically important species.

McAlpine (1977) contributed significantly to the systematics of the family Piophilidae through the proposal of a revised classification of the family (although this was not based on an explicit phylogenetic analysis), description of six new species and two new genera, taxonomic changes to other species, the documentation of species distributions, and the publication of worldwide identification keys to species. McAlpines’s work, however, was published more than 35 years ago, and his species keys can be difficult to use, especially by non-experts, as they are based mostly on colour characters and do not include species described since that time.

In an effort to complement and update McAlpine (1977), the objectives of this work are to document Piophilidae species of known or potential forensic importance worldwide, to compile a checklist of Nearctic Piophilidae species relevant to forensic entomology based on published records in the literature and new data from Quebec (Canada), to update the distribution records and document the intraspecific variations of all species in the Nearctic checklist, and to develop a user-friendly key to forensically relevant Piophilidae species in the Nearctic.

Table 1. Piophilidae species documented in the forensic entomology literature.

Species

Locality

References

Boreopiophila tomentosa Frey, 1930*

Canada: Manitoba

Gill 2005

Liopiophila varipes Meigen, 1830

Canada: New Brunswick

Michaud et al. 2010

 

Germany

 

Fiedler et al. 2008

Baumjohann & Rudzinski 2013

Mycetaulus bipunctatus (Fallén, 1823)

USA: Louisiana

Watson & Carlton 2008

Parapiophila vulgaris (Fallén, 1820)

Germany

Fiedler et al. 2008

Baumjohann & Rudzinski 2013

 

Poland

Matuszewski et al. 2008

Piophila casei (Linnaeus, 1758)

Canada: Saskatchewan

Sharanowski et al. 2008

 

USA: Tennessee

Reed 1958**

 

USA: Hawaii

Early & Goff 1986

 

USA: Colorado

de Jong & Chadwick 1999***

 

USA: Louisiana

Watson & Carlton 2008

 

Costa Rica

Carvalho et al. 2000

 

Argentina

Battán Horenstein et al. 2010

 

Spain

Martín-Vega et al. 2011

 

Portugal

Germany

Prado e Castro et al. 2012

Baumjohann & Rudzinski 2013

 

South Africa

Braack 1986

 

Thailand

Sukontason et al. 2001

 

Malaysia

Kumara et al. 2012

Piophila megastigmata McAlpine, 1978

Portugal

Prado e Castro et al. 2012

 

Spain

Martín-Vega et al. 2011

 

 

Paños et al. 2013

 

South Africa

Braack 1986

Prochyliza azteca McAlpine, 1977

Costa Rica

Jirón & Cartín 1981

Prochyliza brevicornis Melander, 1924

Canada: British Columbia

Anderson 1995

Prochyliza nigrimana (Meigen, 1826)

USA: Tennessee

Reed 1958**

 

Portugal

Prado e Castro et al. 2012

 

Spain

Martín-Vega et al. 2011

 

 

Martín-Vega & Baz 2013

Prochyliza xanthostoma Walker, 1849

Canada: Manitoba

Gill 2005

 

USA: Tennessee

Reed 1958**

 

USA: Illinois

Johnson 1975****

 

USA: Louisiana

Watson & Carlton 2003

 

USA: Virginia

Tabor et al. 2005

Protopiophila latipes (Meigen, 1838)

Canada: New Brunswick

Michaud et al. 2010

 

USA: Tennessee

Reed 1958**

 

USA: Illinois

Johnson 1975****

 

Germany

 

Fiedler et al. 2008

Baumjohann & Rudzinski 2013

 

Portugal

Prado e Castro et al. 2012

Stearibia nigriceps Meigen, 1826

Canada: British Columbia

Anderson 1995

 

Canada: Manitoba

Gill 2005

 

Canada: New Brunswick

Michaud et al. 2010

 

USA: Tennessee

Reed 1958**

 

USA: Louisiana

Watson & Carlton 2003

 

USA: Virginia

Tabor et al. 2005

 

France

Leclercq 1996

 

Germany

 

Fiedler et al. 2008

Baumjohann & Rudzinski 2013

 

Poland

Matuszewski et al. 2008

 

Spain

Martín-Vega et al. 2011

 

Portugal

Prado e Castro et al. 2012

 

 

Martinez et al. 2006

 

Colombia

Grisales et al. 2010

 

India

Sathe et al. 2013

* Gill (2005) recorded B. tomentosa from southwestern Manitoba. All verified records of this species are from the arctic (Rochefort & Wheeler 2015) and vouchers of Gill’s specimens are unavailable. Thus we consider this record questionable.

The following studies did not use human or pig carcasses.

** Used dog carcasses

*** Used rabbit carcasses.

**** Used squirrel, rabbit, cat and opossum carcasses.