In DepthCULTURAL HERITAGE

In a ‘foretold tragedy,’ fire consumes Brazil museum

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Science  07 Sep 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6406, pp. 960
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6406.960

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  • RE: Rio de Janeiro Museum fire: what to do about the massive loss of type specimens?
    • Thomas Pape, President, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
    • Other Contributors:
      • Erna Aescht, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Shane T. Ahyong, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Alberto Ballerio, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Markus Bertling, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Nina G. Bogutskaya, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Patrice Bouchard, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Thierry Bourgoin, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Dmitry Dmitriev, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Neal L. Evenhuis, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Mark J. Grygier, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • R. Bruce Halliday, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Mark S. Harvey, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Junichi Kojima, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Maurice Kottelat, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Frank-Thorsten Krell, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Sven O. Kullander, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Gerardo Lamas, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Christopher H. C. Lyal, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Richard Pyle, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Frank E. Rheindt, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Gary Rosenberg, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Francisco Welter-Schultes, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Judith E. Winston, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Douglas Yanega, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Zhi-Qiang Zhang, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
      • Hong-zhang Zhou, Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature

    The recent fire at the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1) destroyed millions of biological specimens, including thousands of name-bearing (primary) types, and we grieve for this loss and the impact it will have on our colleagues around the world. In zoology, a name-bearing type is a specimen (holotype, lectotype, neotype) or set of specimens (syntypes) that is fixed as a permanent reference for the identity of the species. Name-bearing types are often critically important for the correct application of specific names. Because of their crucial role in taxonomy, the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (2) allows for the replacement of types that have been lost or completely destroyed, but only when certain conditions are met.
    A neotype may be designated if no name-bearing type of a species exists, and a new type specimen is necessary to unambiguously define the species. Even when this exceptional need is justified, Article 75.3 of the Code (2) sets out seven additional requirements to ensure that the designation is well executed, the species or subspecies is recognizable, and the neotype specimen is properly preserved and accessible for study.
    Neotype designations to replace existing name-bearing types that may be damaged, incomplete or immature are only possible via written formal application (3) to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, proposing that the existing type be set aside and replaced with a specified neotype....

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Current fire protection systems do not extinguish fire

    Herton Escobar wrote an article entitled “In a ‘foretold tragedy,’ fire consumes Brazil museum” (1). Even if the Brazil museum were equipped with the current fire protection system, the conventional sprinklers cannot cease fire. In the current fire protection systems including sprinklers, as the ceiling temperature reaches a fixed temperature of approximately 75 degree Celsius, the sprinkler element is activated. The plug in the sprinkler is made of an alloy or a small glass bulb that melts at 75 degree Celsius to expand and shatter when it gets hot. The plug is meant to break and open the sprinkler as soon as a fire breaks out. However, imagine a scene of the ceiling temperature reaching 75 degree Celsius. The conventional sprinklers cannot cease or extinguish a big fire when the ceiling temperature reaching 75 degree Celsius. By lowering the activated temperature of the plug in the sprinkler, water wetting may cause unnecessary damages in buildings. Therefore, detecting the initial fire, initial fire fighting or initial fire extinguishing plays a key role in ceasing fire before it becoming a big fire.

    References:
    1. Herton Escobar, In a ‘foretold tragedy,’ fire consumes Brazil museum, Science 07 Sep 2018: Vol. 361, Issue 6406, pp. 960

    Competing Interests: None declared.