Date of this Version
Journal of Parasitology (April 2009) 95(2): 490-501.
Permanent and well-supported museum or natural history collections provide a solid foundation for the process of systematics research through creation of an empirical record which validates our understanding of the biosphere. We explore the role of museums in ongoing studies of the complex helminth fauna characteristic of pikas (Ochotona spp.) in the American west. These studies address the taxonomy for pinworms of the Labiostomatinae and the problems associated with the absence of adequate type series and vouchers and with misidentifications in original descriptions. We demonstrate that the types for Labiostomum (Labiostomum) coloradensis are identical to some specimens in the syntype series representing L. (Eugenuris) utahensis, although the published descriptions are in disagreement. Both are identical to L. (Eugenuris) talkeetnaeuris and, as a consequence, are reduced as junior synonyms. Only two species of large pinworms, namely L. (Labiostomum) rauschi and L. (Eugenuris) talkeetnaeuris, are widely distributed in Ochotona collaris and O. princeps. Although this serves to clarify the taxonomy for species in these genera, prior records remain confused, as representative voucher specimens from all major surveys in North America were never submitted to museum collections. We strongly suggest that type and voucher series should not be held in private or personal collections, where such are eventually lost, discarded, or destroyed through neglect due to inattention and the absence of curation. The potential to accumulate meaningful baselines for assessment of environmental change is jeopardized if materials from survey and inventory are not routinely submitted to museum collections. The capacity of museum repositories, as a focus for systematics, ecology, and evolutionary studies and for the development of resources for biodiversity informatics, continues to be undervalued and poorly utilized by a cadre of scientists who are dependent on accurate and definitive information that transcends specific disciplines.