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Generalized Additive Models and Lucilia sericata Growth: Assessing Confidence Intervals and Error Rates in Forensic Entomology

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Abstract: 

Forensic entomologists use blow fly development to estimate a postmortem interval. Although accurate, fly age estimates can be imprecise for older developmental stages and no standard means of assigning confidence intervals exists. Presented here is a method for modeling growth of the forensically important blow fly Lucilia sericata, using generalized additive models (GAMs). Eighteen GAMs were created to predict the extent of juvenile fly development, encompassing developmental stage, length, weight, strain, and temperature data, collected from 2559 individuals. All measures were informative, explaining up to 92.6% of the deviance in the data, though strain and temperature exerted negligible influences. Predictions made with an independent data set allowed for a subsequent examination of error. Estimates using length and developmental stage were within 5% of true development percent during the feeding portion of the larval life cycle, while predictions for postfeeding third instars were less precise, but within expected error.
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Keywords: Calliphoridae; blow fly; confidence interval; development; forensic entomology; forensic science; generalized additive model; postmortem interval

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Forensic Science Program, School of Criminal Justice and Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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