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Pig-mentation: Postmortem Iris Color Change in the Eyes of Sus scrofa

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Experienced forensic pathologists and examiners may be familiar with the phenomenon of postmortem iris color change; however, only Knight, Simpson’s forensic medicine, Arnold, London, 1997; Ref. 1 and Saukko and Knight, Knight’s forensic pathology, 3rd ed., Arnold, London, 2004; Ref. 2 have referred to it in the literature, and to date, there have been no published scientific research studies on this taphonomic artifact. A controlled experiment was conducted of postmortem changes to isolated Sus scrofa eyes. The eyes (n = 137) were separated into three groups and each sample was observed for 3-day postmortem at a different temperature. In addition, a Sus scrofa head was obtained to observe postmortem changes of eyes in situ. All isolated blue eyes in the experiment, at room temperature and higher, changed to brown/black within 48 h. The in situ blue eye, at room temperature, turned brown/black within 72 h. If iris color consistently changes postmortem in humans, then this taphonomic artifact must be incorporated into victim identification protocol, including disaster victim identification software, and autopsy reports to prevent inaccurate victim identification and inappropriate exclusion from the identification process.

Keywords: eye color change; forensic science; forensic taphonomy; iris color change; postmortem; victim identification

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: 23 Rose Avenue, Toronto, ON, Canada M4X 1N7. 2: Inforce Foundation, Department of Materials and Applied Sciences, Cranfield University, Shrivenham, Swindon SN6 8LA, U.K. 3: School of Health and Social Care, Bournemouth University, Royal London House, Christchurch Road, Bournemouth, Dorset BH1 3LT, U.K.

Publication date: May 1, 2008


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