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images from the International Thylacine Specimen Database
  "Certainly in my experience this is by far the most thorough compilation focused on an extinct or endangered animal ever produced and, as such, bound to be enormously useful to many generations of scientists to come".
Prof. Mike Archer
University of New South Wales

    A zoological specimen is an animal or part of an animal that is preserved for scientific study.  The International Thylacine Specimen Database (ITSD) is the culmination of a major cooperative effort between museums and universities that hold thylacine specimens to produce the first comprehensive study of all that is known to physically remain of this unique species.  All catalogued thylacine specimens pre-date the death of the last captive animal, which died at the Beaumaris Zoo on the Queen's Domain in Hobart on the night of the 7th September 1936.

    Although the thylacine is officially classified as extinct by both the IUCN and WWF, there is still hope that a critically endangered relict population may survive to this day in Tasmania.  Gilbert's potoroo (Potorous gilbertii), after all, is a classic example of a species that was thought to have become extinct in the 1870s only to be rediscovered in 1994.

    The ITSD was first published as an electronic resource on CD-ROM in April 2005.  It was updated in 2006 and 2009, and completely revised in 2011.  The fifth revision (2013) has been released on a single DVD-ROM and totals around 5.72GB of data and images.

ITSD Project Director Dr. Stephen Sleightholme - image  Nicholas Ayliffe
Dr. Stephen Sleightholme (ITSD Project Director) recording thylacine skull measurements in the collection of the Museum fur Naturkunde in Berlin.

    The database has been designed as a free access academic tool to promote and facilitate undergraduate and postgraduate research into the species, and is accessible to researchers through the offices of the curators and heads of department of the universities and museums that hold thylacine material.

    The "master" copy is held by the Zoological Society in London, with duplicates at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, the Queen Victoria Museum in Launceston, and the Australian National Wildlife Collection in Canberra.  In September 2005, the ITSD was presented with a prestigious Whitley Award; the first time in the history of the awards that a citation had been presented for a database.  The Whitley Awards have been awarded annually since 1979 by the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales.  They commemorate Gilbert Whitley, an eminent Australian ichthyologist, and are presented for outstanding publications, either printed or electronic, that contain new information about the fauna of the Australasian region.

    Thylacine specimens are held in 110 museum and university collections in 23 countries, with 9 specimens in private possession.  In 51 of these collections, the species is represented by a single specimen.  Of the 754 known specimens, 86 (11.4%) are located in collections in Tasmania, 215 (28.5%) in mainland Australia & New Zealand, 69 (9.1%) in North America, 5 (0.7%) in Asia, 178 (23.6%) in Europe, and 202 (26.8%) in the UK & Eire.  The country with the largest number of museum and university collections holding thylacine specimens is the United Kingdom with a total of 23.  This is followed by Germany with 17, then Mainland Australia with 11 (14 including Tasmania).  A conservative estimate for the total number of thylacines procured for scientific collections is approximately 450 ± 50.
 Number of institutions holding thylacine
 specimens by country
 Australia [Mainland] 11
 Australia [Tasmania] 3
 New Zealand 4
 Canada 1
 USA 10
 India 1
 Japan 2
 Austria 1
 Belgium 3
 Czech Republic 3
 Denmark 1
 Estonia 2
 France 6
 Germany 17
 Italy 3
 Netherlands 3
 Norway 2
 Poland 2
 Russia 1
 Spain 1
 Sweden 3
 Switzerland 5
 Eire 2
 United Kingdom 23
 Total 110
 Specimen category or type [totals]
 Specimen type No. % total
 Complete adult skin 44 5.84
 Incomplete adult skin 20 2.65
 Complete juvenile skin 6 0.80
 Incomplete juvenile skin 8 1.06
 Organs [wet] 71 9.42
 Adult [wet] 4 0.53
 Pouch young [wet] * 16 2.12
 Taxidermy mounts 100 13.26
 Complete skull 310 41.11
 Cranium only 11 1.46
 Mandible only 15 1.99
 Complete wired skeleton 28 3.71
 Complete loose skeleton 51 6.76
 Incomplete wired skeleton 5 0.66
 Incomplete loose skeleton 19 2.52
 Loose individual bones 28 3.71
 Other 18 2.39
 Total 754
 * Two of the pup [foetal] specimens listed on the register at the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates could not be located and are presumed lost or destroyed.

return to the section's introduction forward to: The International Thylacine Specimen Database (page 2)

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