Date of this Version
Medical and Veterinary Entomology 20 (2006), pp. 248–258.
Carrion insect succession studies have historically used repeated sampling of single or a few carcasses to produce data, either weighing the carcasses, removing a qualitative subsample of the fauna present, or both, on every visit over the course of decomposition and succession. This study, conducted in a set of related experimental hypotheses with two trials in a single season, investigated the effect that repeated sampling has on insect succession, determined by the number of taxa collected on each visit and by community composition. Each trial lasted at least 21 days, with daily visits on the first 14 days. Rat carcasses used in this study were all placed in the field on the same day, but then either sampled qualitatively on every visit (similar to most succession studies) or ignored until a given day of succession, when they were sampled qualitatively (a subsample) and then destructively sampled in their entirety. Carcasses sampled on every visit were in two groups: those from which only a sample of the fauna was taken and those from which a sample of fauna was taken and the carcass was weighed for biomass determination. Of the carcasses visited only once, the number of taxa in subsamples was compared to the actual number of taxa present when the carcass was destructively sampled to determine if the subsamples adequately represented the total carcass fauna. Data from the qualitative subsamples of those carcasses visited only once were also compared to data collected from carcasses that were sampled on every visit to investigate the effect of the repeated sampling. A total of 39 taxa were collected from carcasses during the study and the component taxa are discussed individually in relation to their role in succession. Number of taxa differed on only one visit between the qualitative subsamples and the actual number of taxa present, primarily because the organisms missed by the qualitative sampling were cryptic (hidden deep within body cavities) or rare (only represented by very few specimens). There were no differences discovered between number of taxa in qualitative subsamples from carcasses sampled repeatedly (with or without biomass determinations) and those sampled only a single time. Community composition differed considerably in later stages of decomposition, with disparate communities due primarily to small numbers of rare taxa. These results indicate that the methods used historically for community composition determination in experimental forensic entomology are generally adequate.