Precise developmental data for forensic indicator blow fly species are essential for accuracy in the estimate of the post-mortem interval (PMI). Why, then, does the determination of the PMI result in conflicting time frames when published conspecific developmental data are used? To answer this question, we conducted constant temperature trials between the developmental minimum temperature and upper threshold temperatures (8–32°C) on the forensically important blow fly species Phormia regina (Meigen) (Diptera: Calliphoridae). Flies were reared using two designs to quantify sources of variation. We measured rearing container temperatures and internal growth chamber temperatures by using thermocouples to accurately record temperatures experienced by larvae and to construct a degree-day model. Differences in experimental design, as seen across temperature studies for this fly species, did not significantly impact larval development. We also found that using set chamber temperatures rather than rearing container temperatures altered the final degree-day model. Using any minimum threshold (including an empirically determined true minimum) other than that from linear interpolation (x-intercept) violated degree-day assumptions and invalidated estimates of the PMI. We observed the minimum developmental temperature to be higher (14°C) than that generated under the x-intercept method (5.46°C) by using data from oviposition to adult emergence. This difference along with the noted difference in accumulated degree-days (using different base temperatures) suggests a need for additional experimentation on other forensically important fly species at low temperature thresholds to help with development of curvilinear models. Former and current estimates of the PMI may be inaccurate if the process to determine the time frame ignored degree-day model assumptions or was based upon questionable data sets.
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Vol. 43 • No. 6