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Pig-mentation: Postmortem Iris Color Change in the Eyes of Sus Scrofa

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 53 Issue: 3 Dated: May 2008 Pages: 626-631
Elizabeth Abraham M.Sc.; Margaret Cox Ph.D.; David Quincey M.Sc.
Date Published
May 2008
6 pages
In order to test Knight's assertion ("Knights' Forensic Pathology," third edition, 2004) that eye color changes after death before the eyeball is fully decomposed, the current research conducted a series of pilot experiments with enucleated (excised) Sus scrofa (domestic pig) eyes supplied by a local butcher 1 day after slaughter.
All isolated blue eyes changed to brown/black within 48 hours at room temperature and higher. In addition to the isolated eyes a Sus scrofa head was obtained in order to observe postmortem change of eye color "in situ." The "in situ" blue eye turned brown/black within 72 hours at room temperature. Given that Sus scrofa eyes are anatomically similar to human eyes, if iris color consistently changes postmortem in humans, then this artifact must be incorporated into victim identification protocol, including disaster-victim identification software. Autopsy reports should also note this artifact in order to prevent inaccurate victim identification and unwarranted exclusion based on differences in postmortem and antemortem eye color. The main experiment consisted of a controlled observational study of 137 isolated Sus scrofa eyes. The eyes were observed over several days in three different environments, each at a different temperature and monitored every 12 hours, beginning with their placement in one of the three environments. One environment was an LMS Series Four cooled incubator (4-8 degrees C), an isothermal fume cupboard (room temperature, 21-26 degrees C), and a Gallenkamp Plus II oven (30-36 degrees C). As in humans, blue eyes in pigs are less common than brown. In the main experiment, there were 13 pure blue eyes. 7 figures, 2 tables, and 22 references