Forensic Science Announcement : ABFO Forensic Dentists now can identify alligators from their teeth

Its common knowledge that most newspaper reporters usually have little to no scientific training, and this article is an example of how they create forensic science mythology in the public domain. Just like on TV.

The question police had for the medical examiner in a recent case was, “can someone identify the specific alligator which killed a 67 year old man swimming in FL?”

Scientifically stated, the question is “what is the source attribution of these injuries which killed this man?” This is a common request in un-witnessed animal predation of humans. Carnivorous species have characteristic dentition (teeth) that is the valid subject of “comparative” biological anatomy. But it’s not reliable for identifying a specific animal. No databases of species-specific dentitions exist to allow such a determination.

Nevertheless, according to the article, she called in  a local American Board of Forensic Odontology dentist and asked for background information. She got an earful. He apparently doesn’t need any data. Just like the ABFO claims to be unnecessary in their human bitemark beliefs. 

The case from Florida.

‘In a brief phone conversation Wednesday, Dr. Kenneth Cohrn, a forensic odontologist  in Lady Lake, indicated he was the expert helping the Volusia medical examiner. Cohrn had been called by The News-Journal to provide a general explanation of the process of identifying killer alligators by teeth marks.

On the Heritage Dental website where Cohrn is listed as a staff member, information on forensic odontology states that Cohrn specializes in animal bite forensics and contributed a chapter in a book on forensic odontology on animal bites.

The website claims Cohrn was involved in two Central Florida cases involving deaths by alligators. One case involved a young woman killed in the Ocala National Forest and the second case involved a teenage boy in Leesburg who died while swimming with friends.

“Using bite mark analysis, the alligators responsible were identified,” the website said. ”

The newspaper article.

Comment: Death investigations involving predatory animals should base the identification of the “perp” (i.e. the “source” ) on information obtained from a necropsy of the deceased animal’s stomach contents or DNA tissue comparisons. Whether its a alligator, crocodile, shark, minnow, brown bear, cougar, dog and so on.

Don’t call the bitemark experts for an identification.

About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
This entry was posted in AAFS, ABFO, Bad Forensic Science, Bite Marks, Bitemarks, DNA profiling and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Forensic Science Announcement : ABFO Forensic Dentists now can identify alligators from their teeth

  1. I was asked to differentiate between three pit bull dogs, and asked whether I could “identify” the offending dog responsibel for the fatal mauling of a young boy. Of course I could not, and I went to great lengths to tell the Medical Examiner why. No, I did not charge for my Forensic Odontology consultation. I am shocked and dismayed at the myth, hopefully perpetrated at the hand of the journalist alone, in this case. Mary Beth Hauptle, D.D.S.

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