Mislabelled specimens

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at eohsi.rutgers.edu
Fri Sep 12 19:41:28 EDT 1997

I don't know about butterfly collections, but the tales of the early 
bird collectors are indeed fascinating.  Decades ago the American Museum 
of Natural History acquired (much to the chagrin of the British) the 
Rothschild bird collection.  Rothschild had focused a lot of attention 
on island birds and paid his collectors on the basis of finding hitherto 
unrecorded birds.  Not surprisingly collectors reported birds from 
islands where they had not previously (and did not actually occur).  
Likewise the Olalla brothers, avid (and perhaps avaricious) collectors 
in the Amazon basin, apparently reported birds from both sides of rivers 
and from river systems where they did not occur.  Misinformation 
persisted for more than 50 years.  Whether this did the birds or the 
ornithologists any real harm is another question.  The pay-by-bird 
approach to collecting presumably died out many years ago, but it left a 
sometimes puzzling legacy. 

M. Gochfeld 

More information about the Leps-l mailing list