Is the Information in Museums Always Reliable?

There are 1.8 million different species of plants and animals on Earth. About 350,000 are flowering plants and roughly 950,000 are insects, but those numbers can be deceiving, and there is much confusion over the naming and identification of many of those species, according to a study by researchers from Oxford University and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The 2015 research discovered that as many as 50 percent of all specimens in the world’s natural history museums may be incorrectly identified.

Taxonomy run amok:

  • For example, the researchers studied 4,500 specimens of the African ginger genus Aframomum and found that 58 percent were either misidentified, given outdated or redundant names, or were identified only by genus or family.

  • “Without accurate names on specimens, the records held in collections around the world make no sense,” explains Dr. Robert Scotland of the Department of Plant Sciences at Oxford.

  • To correct the widespread problems, researchers suggest that all specimens should be digitized and DNA-sequenced, to try to bring order to species taxonomy.

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More Info: Oxford University

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