(page 2)

Organ Specimens:
    All of the thylacine's internal organs have been preserved as "wet" specimens within 15 museum collections.  These specimens provide researchers with a unique opportunity to study the detailed internal anatomy of a species that may now be lost to science.  The general heading "organ specimens" embraces not only individual organs, but organ systems, body parts, dissections, sections, and anatomical preparations.  There are 71 line entries for "wet" specimens within the ITSD accounting for 100 organs or body parts.  The majority of organ specimens have been procured post mortem from adult thylacines. 

    No discussion on organ specimens would be complete without mention of the pioneering work of Sir Colin MacKenzie (1877-1938).  MacKenzie was a distinguished Melbourne-based surgeon who devoted much of his life to the study of Australian fauna.  In 1919 he established and financed the Australian Institute of Anatomical Research and began building a wet (alcohol preserved) specimen collection Australian wildlife.  This work intensified in the 1920s when the Victorian government granted him permission to establish a field research station at Healesville that enabled him to breed and collect native animals for use as anatomical specimens.  MacKenzie's thylacine specimens were obtained post mortem from living thylacines he had purchased.  The majority of these thylacines were housed at the Melbourne Zoo and upon their deaths were dissected to obtain organ specimens.  In an article on the Melbourne Zoo, published in the Brisbane newspaper "The Telegraph" on the 21st September 1927 (p.15), reference is made to one of MacKenzie's thylacines and to its final destiny as one of his specimens:

Wet preserved thylacine organ specimens by type and number
Source: International Thylacine Specimen Database (2013)
 Brain 10
 Eyes 2
 Tongue 6
 Trachea 1
 Tonsils 1
 Palate 1
 Pharynx 1
 Larynx 5
 Thyroid 1
 Stomach 5
 Intestine (section) 4
 Gastrointestinal tract 5
 Pancreas 1
 Liver 6
 Gall bladder 1
 Spleen 6
 Rectum 1
 Heart 6
 Lung 5
 Kidneys 3
 Adrenal 2
 Marsupium 1
 Bladder 1
 Female reproductive system 4
 Testes in "pouch" 2
 Penis 1
 Male reproductive system 2
 Head (skinned) 1
 Head (dissected) 1
 Patella 1
 Ossa innominata 1
 Manus 1
 Torso (sectioned) 2
 Limb 8
 Tail 1
 Total 100

    "Here is a marsupial Tasmanian wolf, now a very valuable animal, as it is rapidly becoming extinct.  It is the property of Professor Colin McKenzie, director of the National Museum of Australian Zoology, and will eventually make its home in Canberra".

    In the course of his work, MacKenzie accumulated the largest single collection of thylacine organ specimens in existence.  MacKenzie generously donated his entire collection of marsupial specimens, including those of the thylacine, to the Australian nation.  In 1924 the government responded by creating the National Museum of Australian Zoology to house them, appointing him as its first director.  In 1931, the museum became known as the Australian Institute of Anatomy (AIA) to coincide with the opening of its Canberra home.  The AIA closed in December 1985, and the MacKenzie collection transferred to its current home at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.  The collection comprises 45% of the total organ specimens within the fifth revision of the ITSD (2013).  Although MacKenzie did not contribute directly to our knowledge of the internal anatomy of the thylacine, his legacy was the foresight to collect and preserve all of its internal organs for future generations of scientists to study.

NMA 1984.0010.0515
NMA 1984.0010.0021
Left: Heart and lungs of thylacine.  Specimen NMA 1984.0010.0515.  Right: Gastrointestinal tract of thylacine.  Specimen NMA 1984.0010.0021.  Courtesy: National Museum of Australia.  Source: International Thylacine Specimen Database (2013).

    The organs of a juvenile thylacine in the Hunterian Museum's collection in Glasgow are worthy of special mention. The museum holds superb anatomical preparations of the heart, lung, trachea, liver and gastrointestinal tract, prepared by Professor John Cleland in the early 1900s.  It is now believed that Cleland's thylacine was more than likely obtained from Bostock's zoo / circus in Glasgow.

    One of the most recent additions to the ITSD is a rare find within the collection of the Cambridge University Zoological Museum.  In July 2012, during a routine search through one of the store rooms, the collections manager found a mixed box of dried organs that included the compressed stomach of a thylacine.  The organ specimens ranged in date from 1815 to the 1860s.  As all other thylacine organs are preserved as "wet" specimens, this find is unique.  At the time of its preparation, the oesophageal entrance and the duodenal exit of the stomach were tied with threads.  The stomach would then have been inflated with air for drying.  It is probable that the original intention was to use the inflated stomach as a mould to produce an anatomical model, but this was never realised.

HMUG 120706
Phys Cat 390D
Left: Specimen HMUG 120706. Courtesy: Hunterian Museum [Glasgow].
Right: Dried stomach specimen [Phys Cat 390D].  Courtesy: Cambridge University Zoological Museum.
Source: International Thylacine Specimen Database (2013).
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