Type specimens

Dwarf Red Blackberry (Rubus pubescens) Courtesy of The Manchester Museum

So am now back from the excellent NatSCA conference (more to follow) and meeting fellow curatorial trainees past and present in Hereford who were all delighful.  I’m working in the herbarium today and I came across this ‘type’ specimen of Dwarf Red Blackberry (Rubus pubescens) so I thought I’d reflect upon something Dmitri our curator of Arthropods, spoke about last week.

The museum contains an awful lot of ‘type’ specimens (over 10,000 arthropods!)  These are ‘standards’ or one particular specimen to which the scientific name is attached and can therefore be used in compartitive analysis.

Type specimens are divided up into different categories.  A holotype is the single specimen from the original species description.  A paratype is part of the same type series as the holotype.  A neotype is a replacement holotype.  A syntype is two or more specimens ‘standing in’ for a holotype that was never assigned.  A lectotype is the single syntype latterly selected to serve as the single type specimen.  A paralectotype is the rest of the syntypes following one being designated a lectotype.

If you’re still a bit confused I hope you can take solace in the fact that there are also many other ‘unofficial’ permutations also such as allotype, cotype, generitype and isoneotype!

The Dwarf Red Blackberry specimen above is an isotype.  I wonder what this means…?!  Any ideas anyone?

Wikipedia (2012) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_specimens [accessed 03.04.12]


About Trainee Curator

I will be writing a blog about the next twelve months spent as a trainee biological curator based at Manchester Museum.
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2 Responses to Type specimens

  1. An isotype is a specimen that was collected at the same time and place as the Holotype. It’s basically a duplicate of the Holotype and can be used as a back up.

    There’s also something called an iconotype which is an illustration that stands in for the type if it has gone missing. I don’t know if it’s classed as an official type, but being a science illustrator it’s one of my favorites. 🙂

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