Crime Scene Creatures

NATURE explores the fascinating world of wildlife-related forensics in Crime Scene Creatures.

They are among the most reliable witnesses to a crime — expert in their testimony and bulletproof in their account. Yet they never utter a single word. They are the animals, plants, and insects that are being recruited by a special breed of forensic scientists to solve the most seemingly impenetrable of crimes.

Within the United States and around the globe, biologists are joining the ranks of criminal investigative teams to interpret evidence offered by those with a “natural ability” to crack a case. How do ants nesting in a human skull help police to zero in on a suspect? Can microscopic pollen grains track the path of a killer and link him to the crime scene? Astonishing real-life cases illustrate the tactics employed by these supersleuthing scientists and their “wild” associates. We learn how maggots not only can clock the time of death but also are used to trace terrorist activities by revealing the explosives used in a bomb attack, and we meet a dog whose ultrasensitive nose effectively sniffs out a case of arson.

For the investigators, reading the clues requires a strong stomach and a keen eye for the intricate workings of the natural world. A visit to The Body Farm, a forensic research facility in Knoxville, Tennessee, details the various factors in the decay of a human body and how to recognize the false evidence that wildlife may leave. In Vancouver, scientists dive in to explore the more complicated process of underwater decomposition. They are learning how the behavior of curious marine creatures such as enormous sun stars and octopi could taint the evidence.

Step behind the yellow tape and become prime witnesses to the myriad of ways in which Crime Scene Creatures are making it increasingly difficult for criminals to get away with murder.

Online content for Crime Scene Creatures originally posted May 2006.

  • maegan walser

    this article was short, quick, and to the point which i enjoyed.

  • Owenda

    Me and my very good friend Porsha find it very interesting how just bugz or just normal insects are able to tell murders we’d like to learn more.

  • Porsha

    I dnt really find insects amuzing but when I read this article it made me want to learn more.

  • Heather

    How do I buy this video? I can’t find it in the “shop PBS” section, and it’s not on or Ebay. Please tell me how I can buy a DVD of this!

  • elizabeth

    at first i hated bugs but since I read this article, i think they are fastinating!!

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  • emmanuel

    a student at the kenyan best ICIPE cetre for insect reseach and university,forensic investigator for 6years and i believe insects are the best crime solving tools so far.

  • Throw another maggot on the barbie, mate « FYI: Science!

    [...] are also used as biological evidence at certain crime scenes.  By analyzing the type and age of maggots found on a corpse, as well as [...]

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    i think that is wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • todd

    has anyone – and i am SURE they have – ever wondered why the wildlife photographers of pbs, nature, nat geo do not swoop in and SAVE the freaking destitute and weakest wildlife they depict being victimized by the stronger animals and forces of nature? where is the compassion? where is the brotherly love and compassion they pose and pretend their mission is to evict? they never EXHIBIT IT !!! they in fact USE IT to create their supposed PURPOSE and funding. they are here to show us this imperfection. flamingo babies left behind… small, fragile, least among us – left to be devoured by the “stronger”… for what? NATURE PBS SHOW? KALAHARI REALITY SHOW? why are we NEVER shown what we as human beings would want to see? COMPASSION. the difference between stark emotionless nature and the best of HUMAN nature. no .. they USE these helpless little beings for their photographic funding. when they COULD swoop in and protect and gather those little flamingos and take them to their roost with the others. But – no. For their own selfish purposes they leave them and photograph them and make some pathetic claim to “leaving be”. The PURPOSE of man is to PROTECT and to KNOW BETTER. To BE compassionate over life – not blind.




  • Shaun

    Currently in my 1st year studying forensic entomology and absolutely love it, very interesting. I actually stumbled upon this page looking for something to watch on it.

    Answering the post above, I did, then I learnt about ecosystems and food chains. The reason they do not get involved because they are not there to get involved, they are there to show how animals act in the wild as if humans aren’t present. It’s not animal rescue and it’s not natural behaviour if a human gets involved.
    Every animal needs to eat, and if an animal is a carnivore it is going to hunt smaller animals for food, primarily because a smaller defenseless animal is less likely to injure the predator (although not always the case, watched a documentary on wolves and they take down some big, strong animals).
    Plus in a lot of habitats the predators keep the population levels of their prey stable. An over-population of one species could lead to disastrous consequences i.e. food shortage resulting in a mass deaths from starvation.
    Taking a wild animals food source just because you are there and can save the prey is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. If you were the cameraman filming on a fishing boat would you cut the net and save all the fish from death?
    Most animals kill primarily for food or to protect their food source, humans kill other species for food, clothing, furniture etc and sometimes inhumanely i.e. battery hens, at least Mr Antelope out in the wild has the chance to run like hell before a lion catches it. Survival of the fittest.

  • Jon Davis

    “has anyone…ever wondered why the wildlife photographers…do not swoop in and SAVE the freaking destitute and weakest wildlife they depict being victimized by the stronger animals and forces of nature?”

    No, people (including wildlife photographers) are not on Earth to control nature. Nature, left alone, takes care of itself better than humans ever could. In fact, NOT allowing predators to eat prey would lead to the extinction of the predator species. And predators eating prey does NOT usually cause prey species to become extinct (although local extinction is possible under certain circumstances).

  • lee zinn

    Fascinating article. It proves that the answers are always there if we take the time to look, and understand the meaning of what we see.
    As far as interfering with nature, everytime we do that it ends up being worse for the animals. If we impose on them, however will we know them as they truly are…..and that is having survived very well without our interference.

  • Jarrett Hunt

    Wow…this is the good stuff the Nature is known to broadcast on tv….this i won’t miss. I already set my box to record it.

  • Max

    Nobody intervenes because the purpose is to document it, as it naturally occurs hence the name “Nature” not “Animal Rescue”. Besides, some of these are unmanned or hidden cameras so that’s kind of like asking Why didnt anyone stop the carjacking that was caught on security cameras?

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