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An unusual pattern of post-mortem injury caused by Australian fresh water yabbies (Cherax destructor)


A 67-year-old woman with a history of previous cerebrovascular accidents who was confined to a wheel chair drowned in a pond in a public park. Features compatible with drowning included congestion and edema of the lungs with prominent hemolytic staining of the intima of the aortic root. Minor bruises and abrasions were identified. Toxicology was negative. An additional unusual finding was that of patterned symmetrical injuries to the earlobe and pinna of both ears. The injuries consisted of small irregular areas of skin loss that were sometimes linear and parallel and had the appearance of animal nibble marks. Given the presence in the pond of numerous Australian fresh water yabbies (Cherax destructor), and no other predators, it appeared that the injuries had been caused by post mortem feeding by these crustaceans. This case therefore extends the range of animals that may be involved in post mortem predation that may be encountered in cases of freshwater drowning/immersion in an Australian context, with a specific pattern of injury focused on the ear lobes.

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Correspondence to Roger W. Byard.

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Byard, R.W. An unusual pattern of post-mortem injury caused by Australian fresh water yabbies (Cherax destructor). Forensic Sci Med Pathol (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12024-019-00203-5

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  • Australian fresh water yabbies
  • Cherax destructor; post mortem predation
  • Drowning
  • Immersion