Caught in the act: impact of Crematogaster cf. liengmei (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) necrophagous behavior on neonate pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus L.) in the Western Cape Province of South Africa

Adeyemi Daniel Adetimehin, Calvin Gerald Mole, Devin Alexander Finaughty, Marise Heyns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Ants have been documented as part of the entomo-sarcosaprophagous community. They have been known to alter the process of carcass decomposition due to their ability to feed on fly eggs/larvae and create post-mortem skin injuries. However, studies on the impact of ants on decomposing carcasses are scarce, especially within the Western Cape Province of South Africa. This study was part of a research project that utilized two (2) neonate pig carcasses in each month of the year to establish baseline data on the insect species associated with decomposing carcasses in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. In the early spring (September 2020), mid-autumn (May 2021), and mid-winter (July 2021) trials respectively, several individuals of Crematogaster cf. liengmei colonized the pig carcasses shortly after deployment. There, they fed on the flesh of the carcasses and further inflicted bite marks and conspicuous post-mortem skin lesions. Following the reduction in the presence of Crematogaster cf. liengmei specifically in the mid-winter trial, non-vital bleeding was observed as a consequence of the skin lesions. In the early spring, mid- and late autumn (May 2021), and early (June 2021) and mid-winter trials respectively, Crematogaster cf. liengmei prevented the formation of large maggot masses, principally through the predation of fly eggs, larvae, and adults. The observations recorded in this study are of considerable importance in forensic investigations as the effect of the necrophagous behavior of Crematogaster cf. liengmei on decomposing remains can be misinterpreted by inexperienced investigators during crime scene investigations and may alter post-mortem interval estimations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational journal of legal medicine
Early online date7 May 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the South African National Research Foundation (NRF) through a Research Grant awarded to Dr. Marise Heyns (grant number: CSUR116299).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.

Keywords

  • Decomposition
  • Ants
  • Crematogaster cf. liengmei
  • Post-mortem interval
  • Forensic entomology
  • Season

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