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What are Type Specimens?

Type specimens are the objective, international standard of reference for the application of the scientific names of animals, which is regulated by the International Code for Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). When a new taxon is described and given a new name, the specimen(s) on which the author based their description become the type(s). In this way names are linked to type specimens, which can be referred to later if there is doubt over the interpretation of that name. Types are therefore indispensible in taxonomic and systematic biology. Consequently, they are among the most scientifically, and historically, valuable specimens in a natural history collection.

There are several different kinds of type specimen. Below is a list of the main ones relevant to this database with descriptions based on information from ICZN:

Holotype:- A single specimen designated as the name-bearing type of a species or subspecies when it is established, or, the single specimen on which such a taxon was based when no type was specified.

Lectotype:- A syntype designated as the single name-bearing type specimen subsequent to the establishment of a nominal species of subspecies.

Syntype:- Each specimen of a type series from which neither a holotype nor lectotype has been designated.

Neotype:- The single specimen designated as the name-bearing type of a nominal species or subspecies for which no holotype, lectotype, syntype(s) or prior neotype is believed to exist.

Paratype:- Each specimen of a type series remaining after the designation of a holotype.

Paralectotype:- Each specimen of a former syntype series remaining after the designation of a lectotype.

The geographical location where a type specimen was originally found is known as the type locality.