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  • José H. Leal

The Museum Type Collection, Revealed

In an article published yesterday in the journal Zootaxa, I report on and explain the type specimens of mollusks and shells deposited in our Museum collection. In biology, a type specimen is usually a physical example of an organism (animals, plants, etc.) that was used by a researcher when that species was first formally described and named as new. The two most-often alluded to kinds of types are the holotype, which is the single, or principal, specimen designated in the original description, and paratypes, which are additional specimens examined and cited as additional representatives of that new species.


Holotype of Neritina janetabbasae Eichhorst, 2016, shell and operculum (Indonesia). Photos by James F. Kelly.

Holotypes are known as name-bearing types, since they provide the principal connections between a species name and a physical object representing that species. A modern description of a new species must, according to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, include reference to at least one type deposited in a professional collection, such as a museum, herbarium, or university.


Paratype of Rolleia simonaikeni Watters, Smith, & Sneddon, 2020 (Dominican Republic). Photos by James F. Kelly.

Our Museum collection currently includes about 131,096 lots (samples of same species, collected at same collecting event), of which 464 are types representing 145 species and four subspecies. This may look like a small number compared to the number of types in larger museums, but it is striking considering that our Museum in only 25 years old. Some examples are, for instance, types from the Bahamas originally deposited in the Colin Redfern Collection donated to the Museum in 2011, types originating from a large exchange with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History completed in 1991 (prior to the Museum opening to the public), and types of non-marine mollusks from Borneo named by noted British malacologist S. Peter Dance. Read the "types" article here.