Correspondence | Published:

Taxonomy

Preserve specimens for reproducibility

Nature volume 539, page 168 (10 November 2016) | Download Citation

The description of a new species without a preserved type specimen has always been permitted (T. Pape et al. Nature 537, 307; 2016) — but it should not become the norm. Original specimens allow testing of the hypotheses that underlie descriptions and so ensure reproducibility — an obligation and cornerstone of the scientific method.

It is taxonomic convention when describing a new species to deposit type specimens in a publicly accessible collection. This allows independent re-examination, reinterpretation and re-evaluation (Nature 535, 323–324; 2016). Although photographs can point to possible undescribed species and help to document biodiversity, they are open to misinterpretation (and also to manipulation).

Photographs alone should remain the exception, used only when specimens cannot be preserved for technical, legal or conservation reasons. Properly vouchered specimens are otherwise essential in biodiversity research, just as “laboratory notebooks and records must be available for independent review” in the experimental sciences (C. G. Begley et al. Nature 525, 25–27; 2015).

Author information

Author notes

    • Frank T. Krell

    *On behalf of 5 correspondents (see Supplementary information for a full list).

Affiliations

  1. Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Colorado, USA.

    • Frank T. Krell

Authors

  1. Search for Frank T. Krell in:

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Frank T. Krell.

Supplementary information

About this article

Publication history

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/539168b

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing