Successional patterns of the insect fauna on a pig carcass in southern Italy and the role of Crematogaster scutellaris (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) as a carrion invader.
The sarcosaprophagous fauna plays a key role in organic matter decomposition. Moreover, the biological, ecological and behavioral specificities of the taxa are useful to reconstruct the decay history of a corpse or carcass, often back to the lethal event. Here we report the seasonal succession of the insect fauna on a pig carcass exposed in a rural area in Calabria (southern Italy) during summer 2007 and 2008. The aim is to identify and qualitatively assess the major taxa of forensic importance in this region. The principal fly invaders were Lucilia caesar (L.), L. sericata (Meigen, 1826), Chrysomya albiceps (Wiedemann, 1819), Sarcophaga (Meigen, 1826) spp. and Amobia (Robineau-Desvoidy, 1830) spp., Musca domestica (L.) and Muscina stabulans (Fallen, 1817). The primary beetle species collected in summer belonged to Dermestidae, Dermestes maculatus (De Geer, 1774) and Cleridae, Necrobia rufipes (De Geer, 1775). This paper also examined the ecological role of ants in the insect succession and describes the evidence of skin injuries directly inflicted by the acrobat ant Crematogaster (Acrocoelia) scutellaris (Olivier, 1791) (Hymenoptera Formicidae) while feeding on pig carrion. Ants belonging to two other species were also collected: Camponotus aethiops (Latreille, 1798) and Tetramorium semilaeve (André, 1881). Ants can invade carcasses and corpses directly, disrupting blowfly egg laying or preying on their larvae. Our data on the carrion faunal composition and role of ants as invaders should be useful for further forensic cases in Calabria (southern Italy). This is among the few reports of ants as forensically relevant species.