The use of the postmortem interval (PMI) in practical applications of forensic entomology is based upon developmental data of blow flies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) generated under controlled environmental conditions. Careful review of the published forensic entomology data sets showed that experimental (environmental) parameters differed between studies. Despite the differences in study design, there are no empirical data on the effect of photoperiod on blow fly development; yet, photoperiod has been shown to alter some insect development and behavior among noncalliphorids. Consequently, will differences in photoperiod alter the developmental times of calliphorids, and thereby alter PMI estimates? To answer this question, we used a replicated design with precise temperature measurement to examine the effects of photoperiod on the forensically important blow fly Phormia regina (Meigen). We concluded that inaccurate temperature recordings by using set-chamber temperatures over rearing-container temperatures would have overshadowed any affect light had on development. Second, constant light increased variation in overall adult developmental time and significantly delayed development compared with cyclic light. Finally, not accounting for delayed development induced by photoperiod underestimated the initial empirical estimate of the PMI. These sources of variation need to be included in forensic estimates because this variation can compromise predictions of PMI based upon current data sets. Without pinpointing optimal photoperiods with which to test development, we must assume that potentially large sources of variability exist within current estimates of the PMI.
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Vol. 44 • No. 2