Biodiversity & Geosciences collections

Together, the Biodiversity and Geosciences collections form our Natural History collections.

Importance of Natural History Collections

Museums of natural history were established centuries ago to acquire material evidence of life on earth. These collections are verifiable objects that underpin biodiversity research; to count the numbers of species; and to differentiate between them. Museums are therefore uniquely capable of making assessments of the significance of our biodiversity at genetic, species and ecosystem levels.

Our collections are a unique major international resource accessed by the international community. They reflect Queensland’s unique natural environments and the key taxa that form them, including living and fossil species.

Role of Collections

  • Underpin biodiversity research, providing verifiable information about life – past and present.
  • Provide material evidence that can be used unequivocally for environmental assessment, planning, management and conservation decisions.
  • Contain DNA that can be used for recognising species; their evolutionary relationships; conservation biology; and today they are also important for biotechnology.
  • Include pivotal assets of iconic ecosystems, forming a large part of our cultural identity.
  • Define areas that contain high numbers of species and unique species, which are fundamental data used for managing conservation priorities.
  • Provide material for displays.

Our current collection priorities reflect the contemporary needs of the Museum, our current staff capabilities and collaborations, state and national Research & Development priorities, and external funding opportunities.

Type specimens – the Queensland Museum's crown jewels

When a new species is discovered, it must be described, named and published in the peer-reviewed literature.

At that time, a single specimen must be nominated to represent (underpin) the concept of that species. This name-bearing specimen is called a primary type or holotype. These holotypes are irreplaceable specimens of the highest biological significance. Without them researchers are unable to verify or validate the concept of the species they represent when using newer technologies or checking the accuracy of earlier descriptions.

When a new species is described and a holotype is established, it is also usual for one or more other specimens to be nominated as secondary types. These are called paratypes, but with a number of other subcategories also recognised. These secondary types are intended to represent the range of variability within a species; or sexual dimorphism; or some other natural biological trait.

If a holotype is lost or destroyed it can only be replaced by a neotype, usually collected from the same locality as the original specimen, or selected from amongst secondary types if there are any. Elevating a specimen to a neotype must also go through the process of being described and published to be recognised under the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.

Together, the type specimens represent the most valued component of our biodiversity collections.