Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Whole animal specimens

A specimen of Dasyurus maculatas, the tiger or spot-tailed quoll. Photo: Justin McManus.

Bridie Smith, Don’t stop collecting full-body animal specimens, scientists told, The Age, 21 February 2015

Some scientists’ over-reliance on modern sampling methods could have long-term implications for the integrity of animal specimen collections, a new paper warns.

Scientific animal research could be compromised by a reliance on modern sampling methods instead of using “whole body” specimens.

This could have long-term implications for the integrity of animal specimen collections, a new paper has warned.

As climate change threatens to alter ecosystems in ways yet to be fully understood, researchers from Museum Victoria and the state government’s Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research have argued the scientific value of collections can only be maintained if “whole body” specimens continue to be collected.

Technology has proved overwhelmingly useful in the field – with scientists now able to make video and audio recordings, photograph and even document precisely where samples were collected using GPS.

Tissue samples obtained from a clip of a marsupial’s ear or scale clip from a snake are appealing because they are “non-destructive”: they don’t require the animal to die. But the DNA information in a tissue sample is often limited.

“Technology offers powerful new tools that mean we can do so much more,” said Arthur Rylah senior scientist Nick Clemann. “But it doesn’t mean that we should stop doing what we used to do.

The paper, published online in the journal Memoirs of Museum Victoria this month, argues that sometimes the tissue samples taken provide enough genetic material only for a single research project. Other times, the material’s use is limited because it doesn’t contain the full molecular picture that the entire specimen would reveal.

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Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2021
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