Forensic Biology | Sub-Fields | Significance & Application | ScienceMonk

Forensic Biology is a sub-discipline of forensic science. It applies the knowledge of biology to identify and analyze the biological evidence obtained from the scene of a crime or from victim or suspect(s) to establish the fact that a crime has taken place.

It is a broad discipline that includes various areas of specialization such as DNA analysis, forensic anthropology, forensic pathology, forensic entomology, forensic odontology, forensic botany, forensic serology, and forensic microbiology.

Forensic Biology

A Brief History of Forensic Biology

Alphonse Bertillon: In 1879, Alphonse Bertillon of France was the first to evolve a scientific system of personal identification. He developed the science of Anthropometry, which involves the series of measurements of the body to help in distinguishing one human individual from another.

Karl Landsteiner: In 1901, he discovered that the blood could be grouped into different categories, A, B, AB, and O.

Dr Leone Lattes: In 1915, he discovered a simple procedure to determine the blood group of the dried bloodstains. This technique was adopted for criminal investigation.

H.O. Albrecht: In 1928, he was a German chemist who developed a chemical solution that is Luminol. The Luminol makes the blood glow. It is useful in detecting the bloodstains at the scene of a crime.

Sir Alec Jeffreys: In 1984, he developed the DNA fingerprinting technique to examine the variations in the genetic code, which, can be used to distinguish one individual from another.

Kary B. Mullis: In 1993, he developed the PCR technique that was used to amplify the samples of DNA fragments in-vitro. This technique was useful for amplifying the DNA sample obtained from the scene of a crime in an extremely minute amount, degraded state, and a mixture of body fluids of two or more people.

Read more- DNA Replication

Significance And Application Of Forensic Biology

The field of forensic biology deals with the examination of the evidence pertaining to living beings, and their associated biological materials, commonly found at the scene of a crime. This deals with the following works:

    • Examination, identification, of biological fluids like blood, urine, semen, sweat, saliva, milk, teas, juice, and determining their origin either come from the human, plant or animal sources.
    • Examination and identification of materials like wood, hair, fibre, faecal matter, nails, bones, teeth, leaves, seeds, pollen, and other plant materials.
    • Examination and detection of microbial organisms in food, animal, human, and water samples.
    • Examination and identification of diatoms in the water, human viscera, and food items.
      Determination of the group of blood, semen, sweat, saliva if found to be of human origin.
      Determination of paternity and maternity of an individual by DNA profiling.
    • Determining the time since death by examining the bones, and teeth.
    • Determining the age and sex of human beings by examining the skeletal remains.
    • Determining the time since death, and manner of death by examining the insects found on and near the deceased.


Sub-Fields Of Forensic Biology

  • Forensic DNA Analysis

DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid is the most relevant evidence which can be obtained from the scene of a crime. The DNA analysis has numerous applications like identification of unknown biological remains (like blood, seminal fluid, sweat, bones, hair with roots, tooth pulp, and others) and paternity testing, missing person identification, cases of impersonation, etc.

  • Forensic Serology:  

Forensic serology the scientific study or diagnostic examination of blood serum, especially with regard to the response of the immune system to pathogens or introduced substances) deals with the preliminary and confirmative analysis of biological fluids. The knowledge of serology will help in determining the origin of the biological fluids, whether of human, vegetable, or animal origin. It also helps in determining the blood type, secretor, and non-secretor status.

  • Forensic Botony:

It involves the identification of the source of plant matter like leaves, stems, pollen grains, seeds, and fibres found around or over the deceased, which can help in determining the place of commission of a crime.

  • Forensic Anthropology:

Forensic Anthropology is the sub-field of forensic biology which deals with the collection and identification of skeletal remains either they are from animal or human origin. The field of anthropology is useful in a criminal investigation as the knowledge of anthropology helps in the identification of a deceased by helping in the determination of race, sex, age from skeletal remains.

  • Forensic Odontology:

Tooth enamel is the hardest part of the human body, which takes many years to degrade and decompose when the body is buried. The teeth obtain at the scene of a crime or from the buried remains can be used to link the culprit or victim. The examination of bite marks over the surface of the object, body, vegetable stuff can be useful for the identification of the criminal.

  • Forensic Pathology:

It deals with the detailed external and internal examination of the deceased body through autopsy. This procedure helps in determining the time since death, manner of death, and cause of death.

  • Forensic Entomology:

It involves the study of the life cycle of the insects found near, and inside the decomposed cadaver of humans or animals. This process helps in the identification of the cause of death, time since death, and place of death. It is associated with the death investigation, and if the skeleton is obtained, the insect analysis can reveal that the body was intoxicated with drug or poison. 

Read More on Forensic Toxicology & Applications

  • Forensic Microbiology:

It involves the application of knowledge and expertise of microbiology for the identification of crime and using microbial evidence for the conviction of the criminal. The microbial evidence can be found in the cases of drowning deaths, hospital and clinical acquired infections, and sudden infant deaths.

The microbial study can be useful for the identification of a person associated with biological material such as hair, skin, blood, saliva, urine, and faecal matter. The microbial study can also be useful for the determination of the post-mortem interval.

Role Of Forensic Biologist

The forensic biologist examines blood, and other bodily fluids, bones, hair, insects, plants, animal remains, diatoms, found at the scene of a crime. The evidence is analyzed, and the forensic biologist establishes their relation with the crime in their expert testimony.

A forensic biologist collects the evidence from the scene of a crime, analyzes the biological evidence found in close proximity with food, clothes, soil, water, and other materials.

The forensic biologist keeps a log of details of the evidence like date, venue, and time of collection of the evidence and name of the experts to which the evidence was handled.
As attention is required because a single mistake can disturb the integrity, and acceptability in the court of law.

Educational Requirements To Become A Forensic Biologist

Forensic biologists are scientists professionally, but they are also called as crime investigators. The educational background of these professionals includes a bachelor’s level qualification in any of the disciplines like biological science, anthropology, biochemistry, genetics, microbiology, medical science, botany, zoology, environmental science, or forensic botany.

Read more – Forensic Chemistry & Application

A master’s or postgraduate degree is required in forensic science to become scientists or forensic biologists in a crime laboratory. A day-long and extensive laboratory work practice is the key skill of a forensic biologist.

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