The role of voucher specimens in validating faunistic and ecological research
- What Constitutes a Voucher Specimen?
- Preparation and Deposition of Vouchers
- Current Requirements, Policies and Recommendations on Vouchers
- How Many Specimens? Guidelines on Depositing Vouchers
- The Benefits of Depositing Vouchers (and the costs of not doing so)
- Deposition of vouchers permits long term studies
- Deposition of vouchers permits correction of published errors
- Deposition of vouchers permits resolution of species limits
- Lack of vouchers renders published results unverifiable
Current Requirements, Policies and Recommendations on Vouchers
Systematic vouchers – The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature requires that type specimens must be designated and clearly identified for any species described after 2000. Although deposition of type specimens in a recognized institution (as opposed to a private collection) is not expressly required by the Code, most responsible authors do so and make the type specimens available for study by other workers.
Genetic vouchers – Deposition of genetic sequence data in centralized electronic sites such as GenBank or EMBL is now a requirement of many refereed journals publishing the results of molecular studies. Unfortunately, those same journals do not usually require separate deposition of a voucher specimen to ensure that the specimens from which genetic material was extracted were correctly identified in the first place.
Ecological vouchers – In contrast to taxonomic work, there is no established history of depositing specimens collected in the course of an ecological study. However, correct and verifiable identifications are just as important in ecological studies and there is absolutely no reason that requirements for voucher deposition in taxonomic studies should not apply to faunistic and ecological studies, especially since identifications in such studies are probably made more frequently by non-specialists using published keys only.
Biochemical or physiological vouchers – These conclusions about ecological vouchers also apply to specimens collected in the course of physiological or biochemical studies. Just as specimens within a group of species, or even within a species, vary morphologically or ecologically, there can be major variations at the species or population level in such characteristics as pheromone chemistry, responses to secondary plant compounds and other chemical substances, and physiological responses to environmental changes.
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada has recognized the importance of natural history collections in research by publishing a Framework for Researchers Working with University-Based Collections (NSERC 2003) including a statement on the importance of both type specimens and voucher specimens in documenting the results of research. One of the pivotal collaborative roles that natural history collections can play in faunistic, ecological or physiological studies is in housing and maintaining the voucher specimens that permit verification of the identity of study organisms.
Despite the clear value of voucher specimens in validating research, and acknowledgment by major granting agencies of that value, many journals do not require, or even recommend, deposition of vouchers as a condition of publication. Table 1 summarizes the editorial policies concerning voucher specimens of a small sample of Canadian and international entomological journals (as well as some general journals with occasional entomological content). Primarily systematic journals, such as Systematic Entomology, require voucher specimens to be deposited in a collection. However, with a few exceptions (e.g., Entomological News), most journals, including the Canadian ones sampled, either fail to mention voucher specimens in their instructions to authors or only “recommend” that such specimens be deposited.
Table 1. Editorial policy on voucher specimens of selected journals, based on posted or published instructions to authors (as of June 2003). For each journal, the primary research focus is given, along with the stated policy on vouchers or type specimens.
|Journal||Focus||Voucher deposition policy|
|Annals of the Entomological Society of America||General||Recommended|
|Aquatic Insects||General||No statement|
|The Canadian Entomologist||General||Recommended (English version)
Types required, no statement on vouchers (French version)
|Canadian Journal of Zoology||General||Recommended|
|Ecological Entomology||Ecology||No statement|
|Journal of Insect Behavior||Behaviour/Ecology||No statement|
|Journal of Insect Conservation||Ecology||Types required, no statement on vouchers|
|Journal of Insect Physiology||Physiology/genetics||No statement|
|Journal of the North American Benthological Society||Ecology||No statement|
|Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution||Systematics/Genetics||Deposition of sequence data required; no statement on voucher specimens|
|Physiological Entomology||Physiology||No statement|
|Proceeding of the Entomological Society of Ontario||General||No statement|
|Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington||Systematics/Ecology||Types required, no statement on vouchers|
Page updated on Feb 23, 2014