What is a Type specimen?

Mark Harvey's blog | Created 5 years ago

Generally, species are described by taxonomists based on a type specimen and the details published in a scientifically recognised publication. The published scientific name and the official description which defines the characteristics of the species are then permanently associated with this type specimen.

Type specimens form part of biological collections maintained by museums and universities where they can be accessed by other scientists.

  • Holotype – a single specimen expressly designated as the name-bearing “type” by the original author of the species.
  • Syntype – one of several specimens in a series of equal rank used to describe the new species where the author has not designated a single holotype. Thus each specimen in the series is known as a syntype (from which neither a holotype nor a lectotype has been designated).
  • Lectotype – a single specimen selected from a group of syntypes and designated as the name-bearing type some time after the original description was published.
  • Paratype – representative specimen(s), other than the holotype, in the type series referred to in the original description.
  • Paralectotype – the type specimens remaining after a lectotype is designated.
  • Neotype – a substitute specimen selected in special circumstances to replace the holotype after the species was first described and the original holotype has been lost or destroyed (e.g. fire, war etc.).
  • Cotype – no longer used; formerly used for either syntype or paratype.
  • Allotype – a designated specimen of opposite sex to that of the holotype.

These categories, along with other rules covering the naming of animals, are governed by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.

You can view a range of high-resolution digitised type specimens on the catalogues section of our website.

Image of Platyzosteria latissima a holotype from the Entomology Collection

This is a high resolution image Platyzosteria latissima - a holotype from our Entomology Collection