More about Natural Science
What We Do
We look after important natural science collections, some of which go back to the time of exploration of New Zealand and the Pacific, on behalf of all New Zealanders and the international scientific community.
We are building up a computer database of all specimens in the collections so that we can retrieve information about them quickly and efficiently.
Why do we hold so many specimens?
Our aim is to hold specimens of all New Zealand species; but in many instances we hold multiple specimens of the same species from many different places. There are a number of reasons why we keep so many: organisms vary - like humans they can be tall, short, fat, thin and different colours. They vary with age. Some vary with season, habitat or locality. We need many specimens with which to define the variation around the "type" specimens and be quite sure when something is the same (but a variation of it), or really and truly different.
Specimens are collected or sent to us from different sources and it is important to have a "voucher specimen" to verify what someone says they found and when. We keep the vouchers and gradually come to know something about the distribution, migration or seasonal movement of organisms and the ecosystems in which they live. This can be important, for example, in monitoring environmental change.
Organisms adapt and evolve. Study of large numbers of related specimens can help us understand exactly what has been going on. It helps scientists better understand the origin of New Zealands unique species.
An important feature of our collections are the "type specimens". They are the actual specimens on which the description of every plant or animal that has been named is based. Each "type" is the specimen on which the identification of that species is based for all time. Auckland Museum holds the type specimens of 2000 plants, 300 insects, 2000 molluscs and 100 other animals of various kinds. We look after these types very carefully.
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