Type specimens

In order to be able to classify fossil material, a standard has to be maintained.  Type specimens are fossils which have been published as being the type for a particular fossil.  Other specimens can then be compared to the type specimen to determine if they are the same type of fossil.

The status of type specimens is given by the following descriptive terms;

Holotype A single specimen which has been selected to show the main characteristics of a fossil species.
Paratype Additional specimens which have been selected to show additional features which are not seen on the holotype.
Syntypes A number of specimens which demonstrate the variation in range of a fossil species.  All syntypes have equal status with the holotype.
Lectotype A specimen from originally described material which is nominated as representative of that material, where a holotype has not previously been assigned.
Topotype A specimen collected from the original locality from which the holotype was collected.
Neotype An assigned specimen for a type, where the original material has been lost.  This may be a representative paratype, synotype or a cast of the original material.

A type specimen is always kept in a museum collection for access purposes, so that it can be compared with new specimens.  This process is an important taxonomic facility and it makes classification relatively easy.

Many national museums keep casts of holotype material for major taxons.

Identifying this pile of fossil pterosaur bone fragments is a non-starter without a type specimen reference collection.  Alternatively, a good reference of scientific papers or texts would help a great deal in sorting out what they actually are.