Learning more about bird diversity: What a museum collection in Romania can tell us

“Due to its historical background and the presence of rare species, it is considered to be one of the most important ornithological collections in Eastern Europe,” researcher Gergely Osváth says

Containing specimens from different locations, sometimes spanning across centuries, museum collections can teach us a lot about how some animals are built and how we can protect them. Properly labeled, preserved specimens can show us how the environment and species distribution has changed over extended time periods. Because in many cases these collections remain largely unexplored, a revision can reveal “treasures” that were hidden in plain sight for decades.

The bird skin collection of the Zoological Museum of Babeș Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Photos by Gergely Osváth and Zsolt Kovács

A team of ornithologists and scientists from the Zoological Museum of Babeș-Bolyai University, Milvus Group – Bird and Nature Protection Association and the Romanian Ornithological Society, headed by Gergely Osváth, set out to revise the ornithological collection in the Zoological Museum of Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, checking the species identification of the bird skin specimens to provide an updated catalogue

The collection is unique in the region in many ways: it covers a long time span, it contains a variety of species, belonging to different families and orders, and it is composed of the work of several naturalists and employees of the museum”, Osváth says. “Due to its historical background and the presence of rare species, it is considered to be one of the most important ornithological collections in Eastern Europe.”

First, the researchers examined each bird skin and the data cards documenting the identification, locality, date, sex and catalogue number. Afterwards, they checked the species identification of specimens, determining the sex and age of birds where possible. They also updated the scientific names and taxonomy of birds. In addition, they provide a map representation with new distribution data for bird species, offering valuable information on the status of the avifauna of the Carpathian basin in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Published in the open-access journal ZooKeys, this is the first time that all those specimen data are made public.

The collection includes 925 specimens, belonging to 193 species, that were collected between 1859 and 2021. Perching birds (Passeriformes) were the best represented bird order, with 487 specimens, and 93.6 % of the specimens with known data were collected from Transylvania.

By far, the most interesting specimens were the rare ones, such as specimens of Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus), Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca), Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni), all collected between 1903 and 1907 from Transylvania.

With updated information on the taxonomy and morphology of birds in Transylvania, the researchers hope this new catalogue can serve as a basis for valuable ornithological studies.

Research article:

Osváth G, Papp E, Benkő Z, Kovács Z (2022) The ornithological collection of the Zoological Museum of Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania – Part 1: the catalogue of bird skin specimens. ZooKeys 1102: 83-106. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1102.79102

Museum of New Zealand’s journal Tūhinga moves to Pensoft’s ARPHA Publishing Platform

Having decided to turn Tūhinga “into a 21st-century”, digital-native diamond open-access journal, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa signed with scholarly publisher and technology provider Pensoft and its publishing platform ARPHA. As part of their agreement, not only is the journal to make its future content easy to read and discover by readers and computer algorithms, but will also do so for its legacy content.

Having decided to turn Tūhinga “into a 21st-century”, digital-native diamond open-access journal, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa signed with scholarly publisher and technology provider Pensoft and its publishing platform ARPHA. As part of the agreement, not only is the journal to make its future content easy to read and discover by readers and computer algorithms, but will also do so for its legacy publications previously available solely in print. 

Tūhinga: Records of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is the successor of the Museum of New Zealand Records, the National Museum of New Zealand Records, and the Dominion Museum Records in Ethnology. Together, the outlets have acquired a nearly two century-worth of scientific knowledge provided by the museum’s curators, collection managers, and research associates across disciplines, from archaeology to zoology.

The renovated Tūhinga is to utilise the whole package of signature services provided by the platform, including ARPHA’s fast-track, end-to-end publishing system, which benefits readers, authors, reviewers and editors alike. 

This means that each submitted manuscript is to be carried through the review, editing, publication, dissemination and archiving stages without leaving the platform’s collaboration-centred online environment. The articles themselves are to be openly available in PDF, machine-readable JATS XML formats, and semantically enriched HTML for better reader experience. Thus, the journal’s articles will be as easy to discover, access, reuse and cite as possible. Once published, the content is to be indexed and archived instantaneously and its underlying data exported to relevant specialised databases. Simultaneously, a suite of various metrics is to be enabled to facilitate tracking the usage of articles and sub-article elements – like figures and tables – in real time.

The journal’s legacy content is to also become machine-discoverable and more user-friendly. Each of these papers will also be assigned with DOI and registered at CrossRef, while their metadata will be indexed at relevant databases. On the new journal website, they will be displayed as embedded PDF documents, while the reader will be able to do a full-text search of the article’s content.

Tūhinga welcomes original collections-based research in the natural sciences and humanities, including museological research, where its multidisciplinarity reflects the breadth and range of museum-based scholarship. The journal focuses primarily on New Zealand and the Pacific, but all contributions are considered. Having opted for a Diamond Open Access policy, the journal is to charge neither its readers, nor the authors.

“It’s a great honour to sign with the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and provide our publishing services to Tūhinga. Particularly, we take pride in letting the whole wide world straight into the holdings of Te Papa and the knowledge they have prompted in the distant past: something that would not typically be possible had they remained only on paper,”

says Prof. Dr Lyubomir Penev, founder and CEO at ARPHA and Pensoft.