[Taxacom] Thousands of holotype burn

Adam Cotton adamcot at cscoms.com
Tue Sep 4 04:27:15 CDT 2018

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Kenneth Kinman" <kinman at hotmail.com>
To: <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>; "MichaelIvie" <mivie at montana.edu>; 
"Stephen Thorpe" <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
Sent: Tuesday, September 04, 2018 9:03 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Thousands of holotype burn

> Hi Stephen,
>        I'm 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.

A photograph of the holotype will always be a photo of the holotype even 
though the actual specimen has been destroyed.

A photo can never actually BE the type specimen (neotype or holotype), it is 
just an illustration of the type, in the same way that paintings of 
specimens in 200+ year old books are also just illustrations of the types, 
the pictures can never actually be regarded as being the type themselves.

It is really sad that this has happened, and hopefully it will be a lesson 
to everyone in the taxonomic community and beyond in all other affected 

I read earlier that the Cerambycidae types were all digitised and photos are 
still available to examine online, so at least some of the type material has 
been reasonably recorded. I suspect that many of the butterfly types were 
also digitised and are available online.

Stephen is certainly right to point out that the loss of non-type material 
is as much a loss as the type specimens.


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