Species Descriptions

Please could I ask for advice on how to find the original description of a species?

For example, I’m looking for the species description for Aspidimorpha officiosa (Boheman 1862). If I’m correct so far, that means Carl Henrik Boheman the Swedish entomologist was the scientist who first described the species, and he did so in 1862. How do I then find out which publication the beetle was first described in, and where the type specimen is now?

Looking forward to hearing any suggestions. Thanks!

It can often depend on which taxa you’re dealing with (some groups have comprehensive databases with lots of metadata, many don’t), but here was my process for this species:

  1. Googled the name Aspidimorpha officiosa
  2. One of the top results was a page starting with ‘www.cassidae…’, which seemed promising
  3. Went to that page, and the author citation was hyperlinked.
  4. Followed that link to the website’s reference page, and found the citation for Boheman 1862:
    " Boheman, C. H., 1862.
    Monographia Cassididarum. Tomus quartus. Holmiae, 504 pp.
  5. Googled ‘Monographia Cassididarum’ and the top result is the Biodiversity Heritage Library page for that publication (as a note here, the BHL is a fantastic resource for accessing old scientific publications, especially original species descriptions).
  6. Opened up the 4th volume (note that it will slow your computer, it’s over 500 pages of scanned images)
  7. Went to page 255 as indicated on the page in step 3. You’ll have to translate it from Latin.



As for the type specimen, the text after the brief diagnosis notes: “Mus. Dom. BALY”

As I understand it, this means “Collection of Master Baly”

Joseph Baly was an English entomologist in the 1800s, and his wikipedia article notes that his collection is held in the Natural History Museum, London, so I suspect that’s where the type of your beetle is held


Wow! You are a fantastic researcher! I’m very grateful for your help with this query. :slightly_smiling_face: It’s exactly what I was after. Wishing you a happy, peaceful holiday!

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For plants, I go to W3Tropicos ( https://www.tropicos.org/home ). The page on the name cites the original description and tells where the type specimens are, to the extent that the people running Tropicos know. (They sometimes don’t.) Coverage of species of the world is a bit uneven – POWO may be more helpful in some cases. The Tropicos citation may link to the description in the Biological Heritage Library (BHL), which you can read on line. If not, it may provide enough information to google the citation and read the article (perhaps for free, perhaps not) or to request it via interlibrary loan.

Locations for the type specimens are expressed in terms of herbarium acronyms, which you can look up in Index Herbariorum ( https://sweetgum.nybg.org/science/ih/ ). In general, herbaria are posting good images of their types on-line, but if you really, really need one it probably won’t be available. (You can borrow types, if you’re working with a herbarium listed in Index Herbariorum.)

Don’t get your hopes for detailed descriptions too high. More recent descriptions tend to be extensive, but older ones may be just a line or two and almost uninformative. Also, although many of the type specimens are excellent, some are pathetic scraps.

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It can be tricky if there have been taxonomic revisions. I wanted to find the description of Herpetogramma antillalis. Eventually, someone led me to the description of Psara antillalis. In order to have found that on my own, I would first have had to find a reference indicating the revision, to tell me what the orginal genus was.

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