[Taxacom] Thousands of holotype burn

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Mon Sep 3 21:48:19 CDT 2018

There is a lot of misunderstanding around the role and importance of holotypes, even amongst taxonomists. If a unique holotype is destroyed, then at least, being a holotype, it means that the species has been described, so there should be a publication (with multiple copies around the world) with a good illustrated description. More of a tragedy is the loss of a unique (non-type) specimen of an undescribed species! If a published description of a new species is no good, so the species cannot be recognised from the description, then, if the holotype is destroyed, the name just becomes a nomen dubium, which is no big deal. Therefore, the loss of holotypes is not a big issue. More of a tragedy is the loss of collected specimens (possibly even collected from subsequently cleared and modified land) which have not been published yet (and so are not types). So, the title of this thread should be "Thousands of specimens burn".

On Tue, 4/9/18, Kenneth Kinman <kinman at hotmail.com> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Thousands of holotype burn
 To: "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>, "MichaelIvie" <mivie at montana.edu>, "Stephen Thorpe" <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
 Received: Tuesday, 4 September, 2018, 2:03 PM
 Hi Stephen,
 not sure I would say that such losses (holotypes vs.
 non-type specimens) are equally tragic.  Especially in
 cases where a holotype is the only known specimen (or all
 the non-type specimens were also in the
  same museum). 
       In such
 cases, if the only remaining specimens are digital
 photographs, can such a photograph be made the neotype? 
 More importantly, the question is whether most of the
 holotypes of that museum had good diagnostic
  digital photos stored elsewhere.  
 From: Taxacom
 <taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> on behalf of
 Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
 Sent: Sunday, September 2, 2018 11:01 PM
 To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu; MichaelIvie
 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Thousands of holotype
 Loss of
 holotypes isn't really any more tragic than loss of
 non-type specimens (i.e. both are equally tragic). Neotypes
 can be designated where necessary, so that isn't a big
 deal. Events such as this illustrate the importance of
  good diagnostic digital photos of specimens (stored on
 multiple servers). Specimens cannot be duplicated, but
 digital images of specimens can be. Images might not give us
 all that we might want, but they give us a lot more than a
 pile of smoking charcoal.
  All specimens in all natural history collections will be
 reduced to dust some day, it is only a matter of time.
 On Mon, 3/9/18, Ivie, Michael <mivie at montana.edu>
  Subject: [Taxacom] Thousands of holotype burn
  To: "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu"
 <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
  Received: Monday, 3 September, 2018, 3:34 PM
  This might well be the largest loss of
  primary types ever in a single event, if the reported
  loss proves true.  Thousands of types in the
  Cerambycidae alone.
  Our hearts go out to our Brazilian
  colleagues.  Horrible event, please no negative
  comments while this tragedy is so fresh.
 Fire ravages
  200-year-old Brazil museum
 The National Museum of Brazil, home to some 20m items
 spanning centuries, is devastated.
  Michael A. Ivie, Ph.D., F.R.E.S.
  NOTE: two addresses with different Zip
  Codes depending on carriers
  US Post Office Address:
  Montana Entomology Collection
  Marsh Labs, Room 50
  PO Box 173145
  Montana State University
  Bozeman, MT 59717
  UPS, FedEx, DHL Address:
  Montana Entomology Collection
  Marsh Labs, Room 50
  1911 West Lincoln Street
  Montana State University
  Bozeman, MT 59718
  (406) 994-4610 (voice)
  (406) 994-6029 (FAX)
  mivie at montana.edu
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