Crime-Solving Clues Can Be Found in Fungi
Recent research has shown how forensic mycology can aid investigators by connecting a victim and suspect, determining a location, helping define cause of death, deducing interval since death, and discovering whether a body has been moved. The presence of mushroom genuses Amanita and Psilocybe can indicate the involvement of hallucinogenic drugs.
“If fungi could be shown to grow predictably for a given environment as insects are, it could be useful for determining the post-mortem interval,” said Kelly Elkins, director of the Forensic Science Department at Metropolitan State College of Denver. Entomology has long been employed to discover post-mortem interval, much of it based on research carried out at the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee’s famed Forensic Anthropology Center. In order to establish mycology as a forensic tool, systematic experimental testing of specific fungi under specific conditions need to be carried out to predict outcomes. No one appears to be doing this, however.
Time-since-death research seems a good place to start. Fungi found growing on or in corpses are not the same species that colonize living tissue, yet information on what role particular fungal species play in the decomposition of human remains is almost nonexistent.
“Although there do not appear to be any cases reported in the literature of fungi having been used as trace evidence in criminal cases, in the past three years we have successfully used them in our own forensic casework and they have greatly augmented palynological data,” Hawksworth said. Palynology is the study of pollen, plant spores, and other microscopic entities.
From: Mycology: Missing Weapon In Forensic Arsenals? by Douglas Page