Morphometric analysis for determination of larval instars in Dermestes frischii Kugelann and Dermestes undulatus Brahm (Coleoptera: Dermestidae)

Simonetta Lambiase; Simone Corotti; Roberto Sacchi

Abstract

Dermestes frischii Kugelann, 1792 and Dermestes undulatus Brahm, 1790 are the most abundant species worldwide at outdoor or indoor crime scenes during the dry and skeletal stages of decomposition. The attribution of larval age in these beetles is problematic due to the variable number of instars, which is influenced by environmental factors. In this study, a morphometric approach was used to look for potential morphological features as evidence of larval stages. Breeding and monitoring were performed for both species in an incubator with a preset temperature of 28°C ± 0.5 without a photoperiod. Morphometric measurements were made on 10 larvae per instar for each species using length, width, and thickness parameters. Linear discriminant analysis was then used to generate decision boundaries that clearly separated larval stages. The cross‐validation procedure demonstrated that the morphometric approach successfully discriminated adjacent larval stages in both species with high values of sensitivity and specificity. This less‐invasive approach could improve the ability to estimate minPMI in forensic studies of Dermestidae beetles. Future studies may extend this approach to other species and establish good practices for collecting and storing specimens for morphometric analysis.