Type specimens

I’m currently working on a storyline for the new Nature’s Library gallery about Type specimens.

Type cockroach fossil

Type specimens are the first of a species to be defined and named, so are internationally important. The museum holds around 22,000 type specimens so that researchers can study them. The type fossil are available on-line

Here’s what Dmitri (our Curator of Entomology) wrote about Type specimens recently:

‘The scientific value of a natural history collection is usually measured by the number of type specimens it contains. A type specimen is a reference specimen selected by a scientist during the description of a new species. Type specimens serve as the primary and unique references for all known species names. They play a key role in stabilizing the use of species names. Museums also hold voucher specimens, which are examples of organisms collected during biodiversity surveys, taxonomic inventories and other research. These specimens are physical proof that species have been recorded from the studied site and identified accurately, and they are always available to be referred to or
checked upon when/if necessary.’

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2 Responses

  1. It always fascinates me how you know its a Cochroach can you DNA test it because as it looks it could be anything. It looks more like a bird to me

    • Hi,

      Good question, but unfortunately DNA doesn’t get preserved when the fossil is this old. The main reason we know it’s a cockroach is that we can closely compare the features of the wings and head to modern cockroaches and they are extremely similar.
      David

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