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The digitized type collection of the Natural History Museum of Denmark
In natural history the basic unit for describing the biodiversity of the planet is the species.
There are at present between 1.5 and 2 million known species on Earth, and new species are
being found constantly. Each of the known species is described in words in a publication.
Such descriptions can, however, never be complete in every detail (which includes even the
biochemical composition). It has therefore been internationally decided to keep the specimens
that have been used for the descriptions, in natural history museums. Any person describing
a new species must deposit such a specimen or specimens in a museum. These specimens are
called “type specimens”, “name bearing types” or just “types”.
Sometimes the author who describes a species also deposits specimens called paratypes. These
are not really types, in the sense that they do not define the species as the name bearing types
do, but they can be distributed to various museums who might want them as a sort of backup
copies or help in identification questions.
The present database is an (almost) complete list of the known, name bearing, zoological
types in our museum. Paratypes are included to some degree, but their registration is far from
complete. It includes also a large number of palaeontological types (fossil types), but a large
flooding of the stores during a rain storm in 2011 has delayed the registration of this material,
so that it is not yet complete. The registration and accompanying photographing of a large
number of selected types was made possible in 2010 through a donation from the Ministry of
Science, Technology and Development.
Botanical type specimens are being digitized as part of an other program and will be added to
the database when that is finished.
Also mineralogists select types when they describe new minerals. There is a collection of these
in our museum too, and like the plant types they will be added to the database later.
Search in the type collection