The growth and development of carrion-feeding calliphorid (Diptera Calliphoridae) larvae, or maggots, is of great interest to forensic sciences, especially for estimation of a postmortem interval (PMI). The development rate of calliphorid larvae is influenced by the temperature of their immediate environment. Heat generation in larval feeding aggregations (=maggot masses) is a well-known phenomenon, but it has not been quantitatively described. Calculated development rates that do not include internally generated temperatures will result in overestimation of PMI. Over a period of 2.5 yr, 80 pig, Sus scrofa L., carcasses were placed out at study sites in north central Florida and northwestern Indiana. Once larval aggregations started to form, multiple internal and external temperatures, and weather observations were taken daily or every few days between 1400 and 1800 hours until pupation of the larvae. Volume of each aggregation was determined by measuring surface area and average depth. Live and preserved samples of larvae were taken for species identification. The four most common species collected were Lucilia coeruleiviridis (=Phaenicia) (Macquart) (77%), Cochliomyia macellaria (F.) (8.3%), Chrysomya rufifaces (Macquart) (7.7%), and Phormia regina (Meigen) (5.5%). Statistical analyses showed that 1) volume of a larval mass had a strong influence on its temperature, 2) internal temperatures of masses on the ground were influenced by soil temperature and mass volume, 3) internal temperatures of masses smaller than 20 cm3 were influenced by ambient air temperature and mass volume, and 4) masses larger than 20 cm3 on the carcass had strongly regulated internal temperatures determined only by the volume of the mass, with larger volumes associated with higher temperatures. Nonsignificant factors included presence of rain or clouds, shape of the aggregation, weight of the carcass, species composition of the aggregation, time since death, or season.
Additional publication details
Thermoregulation in larval aggregations of carrion-feeding blow flies (Diptera: Calliphoridae)