Interactions of S. carnaria with other species.

The European flesh fly has mainly one interaction with other organisms, including humans, which involves the fly releasing larvae onto a dead host.  The fly does this so that the offspring can feed off the organism to grow and develop.  Humans have utilized this natural biological process to aid in criminal investigations.  This process is very important in the field of forensics in determining the postmortem interval, which is the amount of time a person has been dead. (Meiklejohn et al., 2013. DNA barcoding).

The process of forensic entomology is the procedure by which investigators survey the type of insects at the crime scene and then use their reproductive timeline to determine when the person died.  Scientists achieve this because of the careful observations of different insects life cycles’.  Investigators obtain samples of the types of insects at the scene, whether they be larvae, pupae, or in their adult form.  They then figure out which species it is.  Finally they identify how long it takes for a specific organism to get to that stage in their life.  Because there are quite a few bugs that investigators use, they can cross reference all the timelines and determine an accurate time of death (Meiklejohn et al., 2013. DNA barcoding).

The European flesh fly is ovoviviparous, which means that the eggs hatch within the female’s uterus.  Because of this, the larvae start feeding as soon as they are on the host making the European flesh fly a very precise indicator of the postmortem interval (Meiklejohn et al., 2013. DNA barcoding). One cue to the time of the postmortem interval is the color of the pupae.  The darkening of color of pupae indicates advancing development within the stage of the life cycle.

Fig 10 Darkening pupa coloration

This process can be quite difficult though.  There are over 3000 species of sarcophagi and they are located all over the globe (Meiklejohn et al., 2013. Utility of coi).  Species level identification is very difficult because it involves very subtle differences.  Another way to determine the species instead of taxonomy is by looking at the DNA of the insect.  Scientists look at mitochondrial DNA in order to differentiate between different species (Meiklejohn et al., 2013. DNA barcoding).  Another difficulty in forensic entomology is the differences in life cycles.  Subtle variations in other factors such as geography or the season can cause the life cycle to either speed up or slow down (Prado E Castro et al., 2012). 

Although it is a difficult process, forensic entomology is a crucial part of our justice system and allows humans to determine time of death, which can make all the difference in a case.

The classic "annoying" fly, thats bight is painful, the common horsefly, click here to learn more!

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