[Annelida] Caution on type labels

Geoff Read g.read at niwa.co.nz
Wed Apr 5 16:31:14 EST 2006

Dear Annelida members,

Here is an extract from a posting on iczn list by Neal Evenhuis. It concerns 
Diptera and the BMNH. I do not know if the same ever applied to BMNH 
Polychaeta. But it is a general warning that 'type' or 'syntype' put on a 
label by some museum's curator (perhaps even by the curator's junior 
assistant) should not be accepted uncritically.  Evenhuis is talking about 
'lectotype by accident' where authors merely repeat label information that may 
not be what it seems.   

=========== quote begin

The fact that the BMNH specimens had a red-ringed "Type" label on it stemmed 
from WWII when the curators arbitrarily selected one specimen for each row of 
syntypes as the "Type" and marked it with the red-ringed "Type" label. These 
types were taken away from the museum for safety from bombing to a location in 
the country. The remainder of the collection was also taken away from the 
museum for safety, but to a different location.   

After the war, the specimens were reunited at the BMNH but the "Type" labels 
were not immediately removed. [They have been now for the Diptera (in the last 
few years, though) and replaced with proper "Syntype" labels; but I have heard 
that in other sections of the BMNH this still has not been done, lending 
itself to further accidental lectotype fixations.]   

When Hardy arrived in the early 1950s, what he saw at the BMNH were those 
arbitrarily selected "Type" specimens and not Holotypes or Lectotypes. His 
dutiful mention of the label data and use of the words "Type in BMNH" has 
caused those species to have been accidentally selected as lectotypes."  

=========== quote ends

  Geoff Read <g.read at niwa.co.nz>

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