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E-typing for nematodes: an assessment of type specimen use by nematode taxonomists with a summary of types deposited in the Smithsonian Nematode Collection

In: Nematology
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  • 1 1Department of Natural Science, Elizabeth City State University, Elizabeth City, NC 27909, USA
  • | 2 2Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
  • | 3 3Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Vautierstraat 29, 1000, Brussels, Belgium
  • | 4 4Biology Department, Ghent University, Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
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We assessed 301 taxonomic papers published in nine journals between 1999-2011 to determine the use of type specimens and to evaluate the habitat focus and the number of new species described per year. A total of ca 100 new nematode species were described every year, primarily from terrestrial habitats. Two-thirds were terrestrial, 16% were aquatic and the remaining 9% were animal-parasitic nematodes. Only 2.5% of the taxonomic literature reported a comparative study of type material for making a decision on the identity of the target taxon. The overwhelming majority (i.e., 97.5%) relied only on literature comparisons. Our closer scrutiny of the 61 papers revealed a number of shared problems: a third stated that inadequacy of original descriptions, or unavailability/inaccessibility of type specimens had hindered them from unequivocally determining the identity of their species. Fourteen percent reported a discrepancy between the text descriptions and the illustrations, and a tenth revealed the absence of designated types for taxa relevant to their work. A similar number indicated deterioration of types to be a reason for either making wrong conclusions in previous descriptions, or for rendering their descriptions incomplete. We argue for E-typing of nematodes as a solution to enhance the future accessibility of type specimens. We stress the need for a concerted effort between museum curators, nematological journals and nematological societies to address the problem and thereby to forge a brighter future for the science.

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