Forensic palynology

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Forensic palynology is the study of pollen, spores and other acid-resistant microscopic plant bodies, including dinoflagellates, to prove or disprove a relationship between objects, people and places that pertain to both criminal and civil cases.

Pollen can tell a lot about where a person or object has been, because regions of the world, countries, and even different parts of a garden will have a distinctive pollen assemblage.[1] Pollen evidence can also reveal the season in which a particular object picked up the pollen.[2] Pollen has been used to trace activity at mass graves in Bosnia,[3] catch a burglar who brushed against a Hypericum bush during a crime,[4] and has even been proposed as an additive for bullets to enable tracking them.[5]

For instance, a dead body may be found in a wood, and the clothes may contain pollen that was released after death (the time of death can be determined by forensic entomology), but in a place other than where it was found. That indicates that the body was moved.


Palynology is the study of pollen, spores and other microscopic plant bodies such as dinosaurs (marine algal cysts). Pollen carries the male gametes (sex cells) of flowering plants and plants that produce cones (e.g. spikey trees). Spores are asexual reproductive bodies of ferns, mosses and fungi.

Palynology is used by geologists to help date rocks for petroleum, mining and water exploration and to help unravel the history of plants on Earth; by geographers to investigate climatic and environmental change: by botanists for plant taxonomy and phylogeny; by immunologist to investigate allergenic pollen; by archaeologists to study the customs, rituals and agricultural practices of ancient peoples; by zoologists and environmental scientists to understand foraging habits of insects, birds and mammals and to investigate past native vegetation and habitats in order to preserve the present and protect endangered species.


  1. ^ Vaughn M. Bryant. "Forensic Palynology: A New Way to Catch Crooks". Archived from the original on 3 February 2007.
  2. ^ Robert Stackhouse (17 April 2003), "Forensics studies look to pollen", The Battalion[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Peter Wood (9 September 2004), "Pollen helps war crime forensics", BBC News, retrieved 4 January 2010
  4. ^ D. Mildenhall (2006), "Hypericum pollen determines the presence of burglars at the scene of a crime: An example of forensic palynology", Forensic Science International, 163 (3): 231–235, doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2005.11.028, PMID 16406430
  5. ^ Newscripts, Chemical & Engineering News, 86, 33, 18 August 2008, p. 88