Alpha taxonomy

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Alpha taxonomy is the discipline concerned with finding, describing and naming species of living or fossil organisms. This field is supported by institutions holding collections of these organisms, with relevant data, carefully curated: such institutes include natural history museums, herbaria and botanical gardens.

The term "alpha" refers to alpha taxonomy being the first and most basic step in taxonomy.

Describing species

A formal description of a species follow certain rules. From a collection of organisms, one or more specimen are selected as basis for the description, these ideally being "typical" specimen of the new species. In living species where specimen are easily obtainable, these should ideally represent both adult and young individuals. Often they are not however, and with fossil specimen, the basis for the description can be fragmentary and often the only known specimen available. These are designated type specimen, and are to be kept as reference for the species in a special type collection. Mammals and birds are often kept as skin and skeletons (sometimes only the skull). Insects are commonly kept as dried specimens, while other animals are often preserved whole in alcohol or formaldehyde. Plants are preserved flattened and dry in herbaria.

For the new species to be valid, the formal description must be published in a scientific journal. Several journals exist devoted to...
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