Attaching Names to Biological Species: The Use and Value of Type Specimens in Systematic Zoology and Natural History Collections
Biological Theory , Volume 16 - Issue 1 p. 49- 61
Biological type specimens are a particular kind of voucher specimen stored in natural history collections. Their special status and practical use are discussed in relation to the description and naming of taxonomic zoological diversity. Our current system, known as Linnaean nomenclature, is governed by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. The name of a species is fixed by its name-bearing type specimen, linking the scientific name of a species to the type specimen first designated for that species. The name-bearing type specimen is not necessarily a typical example of the species, while establishment of the boundaries of a species requires empirical taxonomic studies. The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature allows for the naming of new species in the absence of preserved specimens. However, photos and DNA sequences should not function as primary type material, while new species should not be described and named without deposition of at least one type specimen in a collection. Philosophically, species are individuals, spatiotemporally restricted entities. Therefore, Linnaean species names are proper names, which do not define the taxon but serve as a label, providing an ostensive definition of a species. Paratypes have no name-bearing function but, nevertheless, are highly valued specimens in natural history collections. Paratypes should be restricted to those specimens originating from the same sample as the holotype. Diagnosis of a species taxon involves establishment of a connection between a Linnaean name and determination of the boundaries of the species. A first step in this process is the choice of an appropriate species concept. It is not the examination of holotypes and paratypes that necessarily provides the best estimate of the taxonomic boundaries of a species, but this is facilitated by a set of voucher specimens known as the hypodigm. Dissatisfaction with the present nomenclatural code led some researchers to propose emendations. Other taxonomists suggested abandoning Linnaean nomenclature and proposed the alternative PhyloCode, albeit that it relegates the naming of species taxa to the traditional nomenclatural codes.
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Sluys, R. (2021). Attaching Names to Biological Species: The Use and Value of Type Specimens in Systematic Zoology and Natural History Collections. Biological Theory, 16(1), 49–61. doi:10.1007/s13752-020-00366-3