08 March 2012

Voucher specimens required

For Odonata records to be considered valid and used in the Atlas, a voucher specimen must be deposited in the UMMZ insect collection (or at another institution). There are a few exceptions of easily identified common species for which photographic records will be considered. See this post for details.

There are many reasons for this requirement. Many odonates are not reliably identified through photographs. Without a specimen, there is no material available for taking measurements (which may vary by location), or for molecular and/or genetic analysis (a number of species that are new to an area or even new to science have been "found" in museum collections after such testing). In the future, specimens may be used in ways we cannot imagine today. I'm sure the early collectors of some of the odonates in the UMMZ collection, which are over 100 years old, never imagined projects like the International Barcode of Life!

We are aware some people may not want to bother with collecting. You can contribute by letting us, or another collector, aware of potential new records so that a proper voucher can be obtained, if necessary.

Some people may not even want to that because they have an ethical objection to killing insects. We can only say that adult dragonflies are typically very short-lived  insects with very high reproductive rates.  The adults you see are a small proportion of the local population, most of which are underwater, living as nymphs. Your very judicious collection of a representative voucher will have no impact on the population as a whole. In addition, if you are observant, you may see the nymphal exuviae of recently emerged adults. Collecting those exuviae are actually quite reliable ways to determine the identity, and of course, approximates an actual emergence date for the adult. Since the collection of exuviae does not impact the life of the adult specimen, exuviae are accepatble means of vouchering threatened /endangered species. For information on collecting exuviae, look here.

There is great scientific value in having a specimen beyond just a data point representing the distribution of the species.Voucher specimens are permanent, tangible, and verifiable. For an excellent overview of the role of voucher specimens, see this Biological Survey of Canada article.

We have put together a page on how to prepare and submit voucher specimens to the MOS.

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