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Zoological types

The names zoologists use for species of animals become part of the language when they are published in scientific journals, along with a description and identification of a typical specimen or series of specimens—known as ‘types’.

Types are necessary to resolve disputes when it is unclear what a name might refer to. This happens if the original published description is inadequate, ambiguous or wrong, or very similar species are recognised at a later time.

Contrary to popular opinion, publication of names for newly discovered species is far from over. Previously unnamed species are frequently discovered when taxonomists explore new environments. Or, they realise with the application of molecular methods that what was thought to be one widespread species is more than one.

New type specimens are always being added to the museum’s collection, which houses types of over 8500 species of invertebrates and almost 500 species of birds, mammals, fish, frogs and reptiles. Each is significant and has its own story.

This Southern Moray was collected by Frederick McCoy in 1884 from Half Moon Bay in Port Phillip Bay. Although there have been many surveys of Port Phillip Bay over the years, his is the only specimen known to exist. It was first thought to be a specimen of the Common Green Moray, but was officially recognised as a new species in 2001.

Yabbies are known to zoologists as Cherax destructor, a name proposed in 1936 by E.L. Clark. Her types, over 400 specimens, came from many localities in Victoria and South Australia. Crustacean specialists now believe that this series includes two subtly different species. One individual has been selected as type of the true yabby and another as type of the second species, C. albidus.

Southern Moray Eel (Gymnothorax austrinus)
 Southern Moray Eel (Gymnothorax austrinus)

 Southern Moray Eel (Gymnothorax austrinus)

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Southern Moray Eel (Gymnothorax austrinus)
Registration No. A 17858
Image source: Museum Victoria

© Museum Victoria Australia