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What is a type specimen?
by S.C. Gruff & K.T. Hodge

A type specimen is a preserved specimen designated as a permanent reference for a new species, new genus or some other taxon. The type is the first specimen bearing the new scientific name, and the one true example of the species. Since they are considered permanent reference specimens, types are the most important specimens in a herbarium; they anchor their species.

The requirement for a type specimen is just one of the many rules for describing a new species. When a taxonomist publishes the description of new species of fungi in a journal article or book, he/she must follow rules set down in the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants.

What does a type specimen look like?

A type specimen usually does not look any different than any other dried herbarium specimen in a paper packet. Some herbaria store their types in a special cabinet or put colored labels on them, but often they are interspersed within the collections as they are in CUP.

CUP holdings of type specimens

Since CUP is a major mycological herbarium, many researchers decide to deposit their types here. We have many types of a very wide variety of fungi — including mushrooms, cup fungi and anamorphic fungi — from all over the world.

Types can be hard to find in the herbarium. Sometimes they're not marked as types. At CUP, our specimens are not taxonomically filed as they are in most other herbaria. The curator sometimes has to do some literature sleuthing to discover whether a specimen is an unmarked type.

The CUP herbarium collections are very important because we have many type specimens that are represented nowhere else.

How many do we have?

CUP holds over 7,000 types, each with its own story. Read about a few of them in our Type Gallery.



Gallery of type stories

A new species in our own backyard

Amanita flavoconia

Amanita flavoconia, one of the most common Amanitas on the east coast, didn't even have a name until 1902.

A new species in our own backyard 2


Rhytisma americanum, the fungus that causes tar spot of North American red and silver maples, was first recognized and described by Hudler and Banik.

Too many types

Amanita cylindrispora

Amanita cylindrispora was represented by several syntypes — that's too many. The job of selecting a single type specimen fell to R.E. Tulloss.

When types are lost


In September 1987, R.P. Korf, T. Iturriaga and W.Y. Zhuang forayed to France to replace the lost type of Pithyella hamata.


E.J. Durand

What in the world are kleptotypes and what does E.J. Durand have to do with them?