Type specimens

SUMMARY: Peter Fenton, technician at the Royal Ontario Museum, describes how type specimens are stored at the Royal Ontario Museum and the importance of type specimens for basic paleontological research. (2:07)

Fenton on camera
DESCRIPTION: Fenton on camera

"Any time a new specimen, or a new taxon, a new organism is described, the researcher that is describing it must designate certain specimens to either be the primary example, we call it a holotype, or if there's a whole bunch of other specimens that bits and pieces of them went to describing this new genus or species, then we call those paratypes."

Fenton pulls out drawer of fossils
DESCRIPTION: Fenton pulls out drawer of fossils

"For instance, one might have a really good tail, whereas the holotype might have a really crummy little tail. We, sort of by international agreement, must take care of these specimens."

Fenton opens metal, fire-resistant cabinet to show fossils
DESCRIPTION: Fenton opens metal, fire-resistant cabinet to show fossils

"In this metal cabinet we store our type specimens. You can tell by these ones, they have the bright green labels, that means these that we're looking at are figured specimens. These are just specimens that have been photographed and used to illustrate different species that are already known."

Fenton displays fossil sponge
DESCRIPTION: Fenton displays fossil sponge

"This one particular specimen is a holotype of a particular sponge. So by holotype, as I said earlier, this is the specimen that was sort of considered the ultimate. This is the one that the entire species was based on. So because it's so special we isolate all of the type material and the figured material, because they're quite often requested by researchers for study."

Fenton on camera
DESCRIPTION: Fenton on camera

"One of our jobs is to make the collection available to researchers."

Fenton closes, locks cabinet
DESCRIPTION: Fenton closes, locks cabinet

"Because a collection that just hides in a locked cabinet does no-one any good."

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