Voucher Specimens Examined

WHEREAS, growing numbers of investigators are using molecular techniques to study mammals to address scientific questions in fields such as systematics, phylogenetics, biodiversity, molecular ecology, environmental toxicology, behavior, human and wildlife diseases, discovery of genes for transgenic application, genomics, population genetics, gene expression, and protein structure and function; and

WHEREAS, publications resulting from such molecular studies are often based on samples of unknown provenance, and do not specify vouchers from which genetic material was collected; and

WHEREAS, without voucher specimens, such studies may become less valuable, potentially misleading or worthless if specimens have been misidentified, or if the study organisms are the subject of taxonomic revision; and

WHEREAS, molecular biologists are rarely trained as taxonomic experts for the organisms they study; and

WHEREAS, the process of cataloguing the biodiversity of the Earth is based on archived voucher specimens which can be examined by future researchers to ensure accuracy and improve resolution as new data and methods become available; and

WHEREAS, the preservation of vouchers is the foundation for understanding the specimens on which the research has been based; and

WHEREAS, repeatability as a cornerstone of the scientific method necessitates the ability to document specimens examined from every paper published where results are derived from the use of molecular data extracted from mammals; and

WHEREAS, it is important that mammal specimens used in generating molecular data for publication be deposited in accredited museum collections;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the American Society of Mammalogists, assembled at their 81st Annual Meeting at the University of Montana, Missoula, on 16–20 June 2001, recommends that editors require authors using molecular methods to examine the biology of mammals to (1) deposit voucher materials in an accredited natural history collection, (2) include in the manuscript the means to document the specimens examined, providing the current scientific name of the taxon (or taxa), individual specimen number and collection where the specimen is catalogued (in absence of catalog number, use collector name and field number), the exact location of geographic origin of specimens, and the accession number of molecular data obtained and used. If unusual circumstances (e.g., study of zoo animals or endangered species) do not permit traditional vouchers, the manuscript should include a justification, and the author(s) should consider archiving photographs or other appropriate materials in lieu of a standard voucher. Data deposited in molecular databases such as GenBank should include a reference to the museum and catalogue number of the voucher specimen; and

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Society urges editors to seek advice from scientific societies specializing in other organisms to establish editorial policies that will achieve these goals for molecular studies involving all organisms.