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Default Can Digital Tech and Insects Replace Cadaver-Sniffing Dogs? - >>   Show Printable Version  Show Printable Version   Email this Page  Email this Page   10-11-2011, 10:35 AM

Can Digital Tech and Insects Replace Cadaver-Sniffing Dogs?
By Amber Angelle

Researchers will use any strategy, even training insects, to locate and identify cadavers. When dogs just can't get the job done, forensics teams are using these new techniques.

Forensic scientists work with law enforcement to locate and identify corpses at crime scenes and in the wake of disasters. Forensic teams typically rely on highly trained cadaver dogs that are expensive to maintain. DNA or dental records are then used to determine a recovered body's identity. Although these well-honed methods are considered the gold standard, forensic experts are faced with scenarios where these conventional tools are impractical, as when the body is badly decomposed or buried by debris. These new tools are being developed.

Bug Bloodhound

Forensic scientists use insects to estimate the time of death of recovered corpses, but researchers have begun to realize they can also be trained to find bodies. Insects can be cheap and flexible alternatives to cadaver dogs. Researchers at the University of Georgia have trained wasps to differentiate minute quantities of putrescine and cadaverine, chemicals released by decaying bodies.

Digital Sniffer
Researchers are also seeking to replicate the skills of cadaver dogs by creating a portable electronic device that is programmed with the chemical profile of odors released by decaying bodies. A team at Penn State is creating a profile of the different odors produced as a corpse decays by monitoring euthanized pigs kept under varying environmental conditions. They are recording the types and amounts of chemicals released over the course of three weeks. They plan to correlate the chemical profiles with changes in the phases of insect activity in corpses to improve accuracy in determining time of death.

Numbered Body Parts
Decomposition can cause forensic experts to seek alternatives to DNA. When other methods fail, investigators can match the serial numbers on silicone breast implants, dental prostheses and titanium hips with records from the manufacturer. Some dental pieces are even inscribed with the owner's name.


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