The Oxford English dictionary defines a specimen as being: "An individual
animal, plant, piece of a mineral, etc. used as an example of its species
or type for scientific study or display".
In the introduction to the fifth revision of the International Thylacine
Specimen Database (2013), Dr. Stephen Sleightholme, the Project Director
"Thylacine specimens are rare and constitute some of the most valuable
of all zoological specimens. The majority are of 19th century origin,
with two specimens (MNHP
1883-1909 and MNHP
2000-153) in the collection of the Muséum national d'Histoire
naturelle in Paris, purporting to have belonged to the cabinet of King
Louis XVI and dated pre 1789. The given date of these specimens predates
Paterson's 1805 account by at least 16 years. If correct, the specimens
may have been brought back to France as unknown curios on Dufresne's
voyage to Van Diemen's Land in 1772.
Thylacine specimens are held in 115 museum and university collections in
23 countries with 8 specimens known to be in private possession.
In 54 of the collections, the species is represented by a single specimen.
mainland Australia and New Zealand
Of the 756* known specimens, 86* [11.4%] are located in collections in
Tasmania, 215 [28.4%] in mainland Australia & New Zealand, 69 [9.1%]
in North America, 5 [0.7%] in Asia, 178 [23.5%] in Europe, and 203 [26.9%]
in the UK & Eire.
depicting the distribution of thylacine specimens around the world, at
the 115 institutions listed in the International Thylacine Specimen Database
(Sleightholme & Ayliffe, 2013).
your pointer over the maps to see the place names of the location markers.
images: Google Earth.
* These totals exclude cave deposit finds, and have since been revised
upwards in the 6th revision of the ITSD due for release in 2017.
The country with the largest number of museum and university collections
holding thylacine specimens is the United Kingdom, with a total of 24.
This is followed by Germany with 17, then mainland Australia with 11 [15
We are extremely fortunate in having all parts of the thylacine preserved
in collections around the world. These include the bodies of adults
and pups (as wet
specimens), skulls, skeletons, study skins, mounted taxidermy specimens,
all of the major organs (as wet specimens) and microscopy slides.
In 2005, Dr Stephen Sleightholme published the first edition of the International
Thylacine Specimen Database. The ITSD is the culmination of a major
cooperative effort between museums and universities that hold specimens
of the thylacine to produce the first definitive catalogue of all that
is known to physically remain of this unique species. There have
since been subsequent revisions of ITSD, and and the 6th revision is due
for publication in 2017.
rarest of all thylacine specimens, and arguably the most poignant, are
the "wet" preserved adults of which five eviscerated carcasses are known
to exist within four museum collections.
NRM A56 6599.
Swedish Museum of Natural History (Stockholm). Source: International
Thylacine Specimen Database (2013).
Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Source: International
Thylacine Specimen Database (2013)
Undoubtedly, the best preserved of these specimens is an adult female [NRM
A56 6599] in the collection of the Swedish Museum of Natural History in
Stockholm. This thylacine was on display at the London Zoo from 1884
to 1893, and was originally purchased by the Zoological Society from Dr.
A. Bingham Crowther of Launceston. A partially dissected juvenile
male [OUM 8091] and a headless adult female [OUM 5292] are preserved at
the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, a partially skinned adult
male within the collection of the National Australia Museum in Canberra
[NMA 1984.0010.0714], and a headless, sectioned torso at the Grant Museum
in London [UCLZ 1653].