If you ever come across a body that's so badly burned you can't identify the corpse, don't worry: just keep your eyes open for maggots. Because a police forensics team in Mexico managed to identify a body through maggot ID alone.
New Scientist reports that Mexican police found a body that was so badly burned that its DNA was too damaged to be used for identification. No problem! Instead, they extracted DNA from the digestive systems of maggots that had been feeding on the body. They had a hunch who the victim was, but no evidence. As New Scientist explains:
María de Lourdes Chávez-Briones, Marta Ortega-Martínez and their colleagues dissected three maggot larvae collected from the body and extracted the contents of their gastrointestinal tracts. The human DNA they isolated allowed them to determine that the body was female. They then performed a paternity test between this DNA and that of the [suspected victim's] father. It revealed a 99.7 per cent chance that she was his daughter.
Interestingly, though perhaps unsurprisingly, this is the first time that human DNA from a maggot gut has ever been used to successfully identify a victim in a legal case. Let's hope it doesn't become the norm. [Journal of Forensic Science via New Scientist]
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