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BIOLOGY:
- THE SPECIMENS -
(page 5)
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Taxidermy Specimens:
 
    Taxidermy mounts are primarily created for display.  The 5th revision of the ITSD notes that there are 101 known thylacine taxidermy mounts held within 72 collections of which 76 are sexed [53M & 23F].  Seven of the specimens are juveniles. Taxidermy mounts, although impressive as museum exhibits, are expensive to prepare, difficult to store, and easily damaged when compared to traditional study skins. 

    It is not within the confines of this section to discuss the intricacies of the taxidermy process, but an elementary understanding of the art is justified.  The skin is first removed from the animal with the incisions carefully

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Taxidermy mounts [region by number]
Source: International Thylacine Specimen Database (2013)
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 REGION NUMBER
 Tasmania 9
 Mainland Australia and NZ 15 [3]
 North America 6
 Europe 49
 UK and Eire 15 [3]
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 Total 101
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placed on the internal aspect of the limbs and the belly in order that they should not be readily visible on the completed mount.  The skin is then preserved with chemicals or converted into leather (tanned).  A manikin or model of the animal is then constructed using a wooden armature and fillers to form the structure or framework of the mount over which the prepared skin will eventually be placed.  The natural skull is often used as an integral part of the manikin, either in its complete form or in part.  Muscle detail is then added to the mount in either clay or paper mâché.  Glass eyes are colour matched and inserted into the skull.  The prepared skin is then stretched and glued over the manikin and adjusted to appear lifelike.  The incisions on the skin are sewn closed, and the fur groomed to completely camouflage the suture lines.  The head of the taxidermy, particularly the ears, eyes, nose and mouth require special attention, with waxes and paints being utilised to produce a life-like result.  Finally the mount is set aside to slowly dry.

    The ITSD (2013) notes that the two largest collections of taxidermy mounts are those in the South Australian Museum in Adelaide (arguably the finest), and the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery in Launceston [Tasmania], with a total of 5 mounts each. 
 
taxidermist Frank Tose with thylacine manikin
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Taxidermist Frank Tose working on a thylacine manikin at the Queen Victoria Museum (Launceston).  Source: Examiner, 7th Aug 1937 (p. 7).
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    The earliest known thylacine taxidermy to be displayed in any museum was that acquired by William Bullock, a noted nineteenth century traveller, naturalist and antiquarian.  The specimen was of an immature male, and was on display at the Bullock Museum in London from 1812 until 1819, when the collection was disposed of by auction.

    In the "Companion to the London Museum" dated 1813, the Zebra Opossum (D. Cynocephala) is listed on pages 130-131, under the heading quadrupeds, as item 14:

    "14. Zebra Opossum (Didelphis Cynocephala).  This animal, which is the only one known in any collection, is a native of Van Diemen's Land, where it inhabits among the caverns and rocks in the high

and almost impenetrable glens of the mountainous parts of that country: it is the largest carnivorous animal yet discovered in New Holland, measuring from the nose to the end of the tail five feet three inches; it is said to be extremely voracious, which will scarcely be doubted, when it is known that the one described in the ninth volume of the Linnaean Transactions, p. 179, had in its stomach the partly digested remains of the Porcupine Ant-eater; it is said to have a short guttural cry, and appeared exceedingly inactive and stupid".

    The ITSD (2013) notes that the specimen is absent from the companion to Bullock's Liverpool Museum of 1808, so it must have been acquired at some point after 1808, and prior to 1813.  When the Bullock collection was sold, the thylacine taxidermy together with the rare Black Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae ater), were purchased by the Linnean Society of London.

Bullock Museum - 1810
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Interior of the Bullock Museum in 1810.  Source: "The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics", by Rudolph Ackermann, 1809-1829.

Graham Renshaw, in his article "Thylacine", published in the Journal of the Society for the Preservation of the Fauna of the Empire (Part 35, 1938, p. 48.), speculated on whether the Bullock taxidermy could possibly have been Harris's type specimen:

    "It would be interesting to know if this was the individual that was exhibited by William Bullock in London in 1812 as the Thylacine or Zebra Opossum, the only known specimen in any museum".

    The ITSD (2013) however, notes that Harris's type specimen was a larger male, with a total body length of 5 foot 10 inches: "The length of this animal from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail is 5 feet 10 inches (181 cm), of which the tail is about 2 feet (61 cm)".  Bullock's specimen by comparison was smaller, at 5 foot 3 inches (160 cm).

    On the 10th November 1863, the Linnean Society disposed of a significant part of its miscellaneous collections at auction.  In J. C. Stevens sale catalogue, the Bullock taxidermy is not specifically mentioned by name, but there are two lots in which it could have been included:

    Lot 93: A Kangaroo and 1 animal.

    Lot 128: Two of the Ornithorynchus paradoxus, 2 porcupines, Koala, and 4 other animals.

    The Curtis Museum in Hampshire purchased the Bullock thylacine taxidermy from the Linnean sale and it remained in the museum's collection with certainty until 1889. 

    In the "General Description of the Contents of the Curtis Museum" published in 1889, a "Dog headed thylacinus" is noted amongst the contents of display cases 4 to 6. 

    A written copy of an annual report dated 3rd December 1932, was recently discovered within the pages of a 1929 Curtis Museum catalogue that noted: 

    "The cases which contained foreign material and hide, many found to be in poor condition, now display a collection of pottery".

    This statement clearly indicates that the thylacine taxidermy was no longer on display.  The ITSD (2013) notes that today the Curtis Museum has no thylacine in its collection, so at some point after 1889 and prior to 1932, the taxidermy was sold, exchanged or destroyed.  Further, it states that no other museum with a thylacine taxidermy cites the Curtis Museum as the source, so the ultimate fate of the Bullock specimen remains unresolved.

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References
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