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The exhibits obtained in wildlife offence cases quite often present a challenging situation for the forensic expert. The selection of proper approach for analysis is vital for a successful analysis. A generalised forensic analysis approach should proceed from the use of non-destructive techniques (morphological and microscopic examination) to partially destructive and finally destructive techniques (DNA analysis). The findings of non-destructive techniques may sometime be inconclusive but they definitely help in steering further forensic analysis in a proper direction. We describe a recent case where a very small dried skin piece (<0.05 mg) with just one small trimmed guard hair (0.4 cm) on it was received for species identification. The single guard hair was examined microscopically to get an indication of the type of species. We also describe the extraction procedure with a lower amount of sample, using an automated extraction method (Qiagen Biorobot EZ1) and PCR amplification of three mitochondrial genes (16s rRNA, 12s rRNA and cytochrome b) for species identification. Microscopic examination of the single hair indicated a viverrid species but the initial DNA analysis with 16s rRNA (through NCBI BLAST) showed the highest homology (93%) with a hyaenid species (Hyaena hyaena). However, further DNA analysis based on 12s rRNA and cytochrome b gene proved that the species was indeed a viverrid i.e. Viverricula indica (small Indian civet). The highest homology shown with a Hyaenid species by the 16s rRNA sequence from the case sample was due to lack of a 16s rRNA sequence for Viverricula indica in the NCBI data base. The case highlights the importance of morphological and microscopic examinations in wildlife offence cases. With respect to DNA extraction technology we found that automatic extraction method of Biorobot EZ1 (Qiagen) is quite useful with less amount of sample (much below recommended amount). Copyright 2009 Forensic Science Society. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.


Vivek Sahajpal, S P Goyal. Identification of a forensic case using microscopy and forensically informative nucleotide sequencing (FINS): a case study of small Indian civet (Viverricula indica). Science & justice : journal of the Forensic Science Society. 2010 Jun;50(2):94-7

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PMID: 20470742

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