Why do we keep specimens? Sunfish science in action

Why do we keep specimens? Sunfish science in action

There’s a fishy theme to the blog this week, with excitement building about the sunfish science that Te Papa’s scientists are conducting next week.

Weight a sunfish. Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa
Weight a sunfish. Photographer: Michael Hall © Te Papa

It’s a good time to ask: Why do we care about sunfishes? Why does Te Papa keep specimens at all?

As a non-ichthyologist (fish scientist) I find the sunfish interesting for its own sake. These fish live deep below the surface and are rarely seen. Isn’t it awesome that we can find out more about them?

In addition, expanding our knowledge about sunfish may help us to conserve both sunfish and our marine environments in the face of growing environmental pressure.

Related to this, spreading awareness of the diversity of the world’s species can inspire people to conserve our environment. If we don’t spread the word about our incredible marine life, why should people want to look after it?

Andrew Stewart, our lead scientist on the sunfish project, described Te Papa’s specimen collection as a library. Specimens are like books: they can be read by scientists time and time again.

They can help us to learn not just about sunfish, but about a whole range of topics. Each time you get a book off the shelf, you learn something  different and new about the topic.

Our sunfish specimen could help us learn more about all sunfish species, and related fish species. We can also use the specimen in other areas of science, not just ichthyology. Evolution and climate change are just two of the many scientific topics which can be studied using specimens.

Te Papa’s scientists will be conducting research on our sunfish specimen on 13 August 2013. We’ll be live-blogging and sharing the scientists’ findings through Facebook and Twitter. It’s a fantastic opportunity to sit in as scientists do their research on these rarely seen animals. Don’t miss out!

Use #sunfishtepapa to join in the conversation on Twitter.

Follow the action on Facebook.

1 Comment

  1. I think its wonderful that specimens can be saved, we can learn from them.

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