Investigation of hymenopteran parasitoids of forensic importance: indicators of post-mortem interval

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    Abstract

    [Truncated abstract] This thesis aimed to address the deficit of knowledge relating to hymenopteran parasitoids of potential forensic significance, through investigation of aspects of their ecology, behaviour and development. A series of studies identifying and investigating the hymenopteran parasitoids associated with carrion flies inhabiting decomposing remains in Western Australia (WA) was conducted. The primary aim was to provide data to facilitate the effective use of parasitoids as indicators of time since death or post mortem interval (PMI) in forensic practice within Australia. A two year survey of hymenopteran parasitoids associated with carrion flies was conducted to establish the species of potential forensic significance in WA. Host associations, seasonality, and rates of parasitism in the field were examined. Four species of parasitoid emerged from Diptera specimens collected from carcasses: Tachinaephagus zealandicus Ashmead (Encyrtidae), Nasonia vitripennis Walker (Pteromalidae), Spilomicrus sp. (Diapriidae) and Aphaereta sp. (Braconidae). Overall parasitism of carrion breeding flies was 11.8%. T. zealandicus and N. vitripennis were the predominant species accounting for 86.3% and 11.5% of parasitism observed respectively. In contrast, Aphaereta sp. and Spilomicrus sp. occurred intermittently on carcasses and the parasitism rates of both species were low (≤ 3.0%). The insects frequenting decomposing remains were investigated seasonally and annually to determine the role of parasitoids in the process of insect succession onto carcass remains. Insect succession patterns were assessed for predictability over time and between two locations for application to estimations of time since death. Within years, insect assemblages varied significantly over time with respect to both season and decomposition stage.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2010

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