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Book Chapter

The use of diatoms in forensic science: Advantages and limitations of the diatom test in cases of drowning

By
Zlatko Levkov
Zlatko Levkov
1
Institute of Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Arhimedova 3, Skopje, R. Macedonia
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David M. Williams
David M. Williams
2
Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, UK
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Dragica Nikolovska
Dragica Nikolovska
3
Department of Microbiology, Public Health Centre, Prilep, R. Macedonia
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Slavica Tofilovska
Slavica Tofilovska
1
Institute of Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Arhimedova 3, Skopje, R. Macedonia
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Zdravko Čakar
Zdravko Čakar
4
Institute of Forensic Medicine, Criminalistics and Medical Odontology, Skopje, R. Macedonia
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Published:
January 01, 2017

Abstract

Diatoms are unicellular, photosynthetic, eukaryotic organisms often classified as among the algae. There are around 15 000 known species, but many more have yet to be described. Their uniqueness lies in the siliceous covering of the cell, each being encased in a pair of silica valves. Silica is virtually inert and indestructible, so after the organism’s death the silica parts remain. The silica parts provide information for the classification of these diverse organisms. Diatoms have been used in forensic science in a variety of ways, the most frequent being the diagnosis of death by drowning. When a person drowns, water will enter the lungs and then enter the bloodstream through ruptures in the peripheral alveoli before being carried to the other organs such as the liver and heart. Naturally, the microscopic contents of the water, which will include diatoms, will pass into the blood as well. The detection of diatoms in the organs can contribute to a diagnosis of death by drowning, a process referred to as the ‘diatom test’ We will discuss this test in more detail, illustrating our discussion with real examples.

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Contents

The Micropalaeontological Society, Special Publications

The Archaeological and Forensic Applications of Microfossils: A Deeper Understanding of Human History

M. Williams
M. Williams
University of Leicester, UK
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T. Hill
T. Hill
The Natural History Museum, UK
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I. Boomer
I. Boomer
University of Birmingham, UK
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I. P. Wilkinson
I. P. Wilkinson
British Geological Survey, UK
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Geological Society of London
Volume
7
ISBN electronic:
9781786203069
Publication date:
January 01, 2017

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