Why are living specimens difficult to study?


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Rosie Normanton Profile
Rosie Normanton answered
There are a number of reasons why living specimens can be difficult to study; some of the main reasons are listed below:

  • The life cycle of a living specimen

Many living specimens have long life cycles - some even surpass those of humans in length. Typically, a living specimen may live for ten to fifteen years (for instance, a dog or a cat). This means a study would have to be either very long or have access to a number of specimens at different stages in the life cycle.

What's more, there would only be a limited amount of time to study a particular specimen before it progressed to the next life cycle stage. Even species with very short life spans - for example, butterflies, which live for around three months - would be difficult to study.

  • The diversity of living species

It can be seen in the human species that each person is different - not even twins can stay identical for long. Although we often don't realize, exactly the same can be said for animals (and plants). Every individual within a species has its own unique characteristics. Therefore to investigate a living species, a large number of specimens from within it would be needed.

  • Staying alive!

Studying living specimens can be very difficult due to the fact you mustn't kill them in the process. Although some allowances are made in the scientific field to allow understanding to progress, killing or harming animals is generally forbidden. Any research must therefore be carried out in a way that doesn't harm the living specimen in question.

This can place barriers in the way of a study being effective. For instance, you could not carry out an investigation looking into an animal's anatomy without dissecting it. Instead, you would have to use diagrams from studies that have already taken place in laboratories.

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