Entomology, Department of


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Published in Journal of Forensic Sciences 53:2 (2008), pp. 397–400; doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2008.00681.x Copyright © 2008 American Academy of Forensic Sciences; published by Wiley-Blackwell. Online at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com Used by permission.


Some death scene investigations commence without knowledge of the location of the body and/or decomposition site. In these cases, it is necessary to locate the remains or the site where the body decomposed prior to movement. We hypothesized that the burial of a mammalian cadaver will result in the release of ninhydrin reactive nitrogen (NRN) into associated soil and that this reaction might have potential as a tool for the identification of clandestine graves. Juvenile rat (Rattus rattus) cadavers were buried in three contrasting soil types in Australian tropical savanna ecosystems and allowed to decompose over a period of 28 days. Soils were sequentially harvested and analyzed for NRN. Cadaver burial resulted in an approximate doubling (mean = 1.7 ± 0.1) in the concentration of soil NRN. This reaction has great potential to be used as a presumptive test for gravesoil and this use might be greatly enhanced following more detailed research.

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