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Animal Hair Identification (1208)

COURSE OUTLINE & SYLLABUS

This course is designed as an introduction to the identification of non-human animal hairs through lectures, demonstrations and laboratory exercises. It begins with an introduction to mammalian taxonomy, the importance and establishment of reference collections and hair atlases. This is followed by lectures explaining and illustrating the structural, morphological and anatomical features of hairs that may be exploited for their identification.

Demonstrations show how hairs can be sequentially prepared so that all of these characteristics can best be observed, if necessary, on a single hair. During the laboratory exercises students prepare microscope slides, scale casts and cross-sections and then microscopically examine them under the guidance of the instructor.

A reference collection containing a wide range of hairs from known species is available so that students may choose from species and taxonomic groups of most interest to them.

Day 1
• Introduction to mammalian taxonomy
• Hair reference collections and the most important atlases, books and articles for the hair microscopist
• Macroscopic and microscopic hair anatomy and characteristics — how we can visualize them and what they can tell us
• Distinguishing between human and animal hairs
• Macroscopic hair features: color, length, thickness, shape and banding
• The cuticle and methods for observing it
• Microscopical study of scale patterns and their variation along the hair shaft

Day 2
• Preparation and use of cross-sections in animal hair identification
• Importance of the type of section and its location along the hair shaft
• Structural identification features of the cortex and medulla of animal hairs
• Longitudinal mounts: clearing the hair shaft to observe structural details and pigments

Day 3
• Differentiation and identification of dog and cat hairs
• Identification of hairs from selected groups: domestic animals, pets, furs
• Interpretation of analytical results, conclusions and degree of confidence regarding the identification of non-human animal hairs with respect to taxonomy