Can a publication on insects be taken seriously without deposited vouchers?

I have some insect specimens collected years ago for a specific research project. Unfortunately, the vicissitudes of life prevented me from properly keying them out in a timely manner, and now they have more-or-less fallen apart. They are in vials of ethyl alcohol, so the peices of a given specimen remain with each other; there is still enough here to key out many of them – an intact wing, an intact head, etc., just not all connected together suitable as a voucher specimen. Is it worth going ahead with the project and keying them out, or would it be rejected because there are no vouchers?

Note: I do not believe there are any potential undescribed species here.

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I think it depends on how many information do you have/can you give of every collected specimen.

Pieces glued to a cardboard would make a proper voucher specimen, provided they can be identified.


Well, I thought that voucher specimen is a kind of proof of existence of a given individual. If you have an isect with enough body parts to identify it, labeled so as you know where and when it was collected, then I see no problem in including them in publication or taking photos and putting them on iNat. I doubt that editor will want to look at your specimens before deciding of publishing your results, and even if anybody would, then you just can show them your specimens in pieces. It’s all about verifying species identification, not beauty of a specimen, isn’t it? In case of record on iNat, it will possibly not get Research Grade unless you post proper photos from which one can confirm species but you can take photos of loose parts all the same.


Because they are in ethanol, they are still quite valuable. Ethanol preserved insect specimens usually yield perfectly good DNA samples, even a century later. And “bristles on the middle tibia” would usually still be visible.


As I know nothing about entomological research, would someone please educate me on what “voucher” means here?

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Voucher specimens in a broad sense are redefined as all biological specimens having the minimum information of collection locality (ideally specified by latitude, longitude, altitude) and date that are preserved to document biological research, including taxonomic research.
Huber JT. 1998. The importance of voucher specimens, with practical guidelines for preserving specimens of the major invertebrate phyla for identification. Journal of Natural History 32: 367–385.


In addition to what @gabrif has supplied, a voucher specimen is not restricted to entomology. A “voucher” or “voucher specimen” in the plant world is a physical thing that you take to be lodged with a herbarium (or equivalent if it’s not a plant of course). E.g. If I wanted “to voucher” a specimen I’d take a part of the plant (hopefully with reproductive parts), dry/press it and lodge it with a herbarium. That thing that I send them, along with proper documentation, is the voucher. If I saw a plant and didn’t do this and just took photos or put it on my list it’d be an unvouchered specimen because there is nothing to physically… vouch for the observation. In some ways this is changing. In the past unvouchered specimens were considered kind of second rate but that is perhaps, with high quality and resolution digital imaging, changing but there is still DNA to consider


Thank you for informing me @gabrif and @0x4372616967 ! I learnt something new today.

The answer to your question also depends on the type of research you are doing. But practically speaking if you can key them out then as long as they are in separate vials they should serve as perfectly fine vouchers. Reproducibility is kind of the key idea here; as long as somebody else could key them from the parts, it’ll be fine. Also, if you have a journal in mind, just reach out and ask.

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