The role of voucher specimens in validating faunistic and ecological research

Deposition of vouchers permits resolution of species limits

Franclemont (1980) addressed the taxonomic status of a widespread species of Noctuidae and and Munroe (1973) did the same for a “cosmopolitan” pest species of Pyralidae. In each case, the supposedly widespread species actually represented a complex of closely related, but previously unrecognised species. As a result, any previous publications on the ecology, behaviour, physiology, etc. of those species in North America would be suspect in the absence of documented voucher specimens that could be compared to the revised species limits and revised keys. These two examples from Lepidoptera are by no means unique; there are numerous examples from other orders, including many medically and economically significant taxa, in which changing species limits rendered older work essentially useless in the absence of vouchers.

Harper and Harper (1981) used extensive voucher collections of mayflies (Ephemeroptera) collected by the Canadian Northern Insect Survey and the Service de l’Environnement de la Société de la Baie James to document significant range extensions and one new species in the arctic mayfly fauna. Similarly, Ricker (1966) used old museum specimens from arctic surveys to resolve distribution patterns of northern Canadian stoneflies (Plecoptera).

Page updated on Feb 23, 2014