Northumbria University Centre for Forensic Science

A standard procedure for accommodating forensic anthropological and genetic analysis of decomposing human remains from tropical climates

M.A. Guimarães, J.A. Soares-Vieira, R.H. Alves Da Silva & M.P. Evison. Forensic Science International: Genetics Supplement Series 2, pp. 165-166. (2009).


At the Medical Legal Center in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil (CEMEL/FMRP-USP), unidentified decomposing bodies routinely undergo soft tissue removal (by immersion in water at 80–90 °C for 24 h) prior to an anthropological analysis intended to yield a biological profile of age, sex, ancestry, height, pathology and so on. In the event that this analysis is unsuccessful, samples may be submitted for DNA profiling. The tropical climate and the defleshing process may confound preservation, recovery and analysis of DNA, however. In order to establish an optimal standardized protocol for identification of decomposing human remains from a tropical climatic region, the outcome of anthropological and genetic analyses was compared, along with the utility of bone (mainly femur and sternum) and teeth (mainly molar) specimens for DNA analysis. In a sample (n = 39) of partially skeletonized remains, anthropological analysis was sufficient for identification in eight cases. In further six cases, DNA profiling was successfully attempted. As a consequence of our study, we recommend collection of 1–2 well preserved teeth prior to defleshing and anthropological analysis in these circumstances.

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