Some of the types used in taxonomy

Generally, species are described by taxonomists based on a type specimen and the details published in a scientifically recognised publication. The published scientific name and the official description which defines the characteristics of the species are then permanently associated with this type specimen.

Type specimens form part of biological collections maintained by museums, reference collections and universities where they can be accessed by other scientists.

  • Holotype – a single specimen expressly designated as the name-bearing “type” by the original author of the species.
  • Syntype – one of several specimens in a series of equal rank used to describe the new species where the author has not designated a single holotype. Thus each specimen in the series is known as a syntype (from which neither a holotype nor a lectotype has been designated).
  • Lectotype – a single specimen selected from a group of syntypes and designated as the name-bearing type some time after the original description was published.
  • Paratype – representative specimen(s), other than the holotype, in the type series referred to in the original description.
  • Paralectotype – the type specimens remaining after a lectotype is designated.
  • Neotype – a substitute specimen selected in special circumstances to replace the holotype after the species was first described and the original holotype has been lost or destroyed (e.g. fire, war etc.).
  • Allotype – a designated specimen of opposite sex to that of the holotype.
  • Nomen nudum -- ('naked name) is a designation, which looks exactly like a scientific name of an organism, and may have originally been intended to be one, but it has not been published with an adequate description.