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Type Stories

Last updated over 6 years ago

A type is a specimen (an organism, a part of an organism, or an illustration) to which the application of a scientific name is formally attached. Types are of great significance to biologists because they determine the validity of scientific names. For many species, there is more than one type. This is because a single type specimen (holotype) may not have been designated when the species was described. Even if there is a holotype, the species author may also have provided a whole type series consisting of several specimens. Types can get damaged or lost and may then be replaced with other type specimens. In some species, there are interesting stories and controversies involving type specimens.

  • 84566_88_88 Eucarya Woese et al. 1990 > Aves Linnaeus, 1758


    The first description of Archaeopteryx lithographica by the German palaeontologist Hermann von Meyer (1861) referenced a fossil of an imprint of a single feather found in a limestone quarry near Solnhofen, Germany. In the same year, the first fossil skeleton of Archaeopteryx was discovered, also in Solnhofen. On 3 October 2011, this skeleton, now housed at the Natural History Museum in London, was officially declared the type specimen of Archaeopteryx lithographica by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). This transfer of the holotype status from the feather to the skeleton specimen was due to evidence that the feather may not belong to the species scientists have long referred to as Archaeopteryx lithographica.

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    Lecythis lanceolata

    Although the genus Lecythis is exclusively neotropical, the type specimen of Lecythis lanceolata was collected from a tree cultivated on the island of Mauritius in the southwest Indian Ocean, off the southeast coast of Africa. Philibert Commerçon had originally collected the plant near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on his world voyage with Louis Antoine de Bougainville in 1767.

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    Guatteria ramiflora (D.R. Simpson) Erkens & Maas

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    Marattia interposita

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    Batrachoides walkeri

    Walker's Toadfish

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    Leptenchelys vermiformis

    Slender Worm-eel

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    Genioliparis ferox