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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 catalogue of all that is known to physically remain of this unique species.  All known thylacine specimens pre-date the death of the last known captive animal, which died at the Beaumaris Zoo on the Queen's Domain in Hobart on the night of the 7th September 1936.

    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 was released in 2013 on a single DVD-ROM and totals around 5.72GB of data and images.  The sixth revision is due for release in 2017.

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

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 für Naturkunde in Berlin.  Photo: Nicholas Ayliffe.
    The "master" copy of the ITSD 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 115 museum and university collections in 23 countries, with 8 specimens in private possession.  In 54 of the collections, the species is represented by a single specimen.  Of the 756 listed 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.  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 including Tasmania].  A conservative estimate for the total number of thylacines procured for scientific collections is approximately 450 ± 50 animals.

* Total excludes post-1960 cave finds which will be included in the 6th revision of the ITSD.
 Number of institutions holding thylacine
 specimens by country
 Source: ITSD, 2013
 Australia [Mainland] 11
 Australia [Tasmania] 4
 New Zealand 4
 Canada 1
 USA 12
 India 1
 Japan 2
 Austria 1
 Belgium 3
 Czech Republic 3
 Denmark 1
 Estonia 2
 France 7
 Germany 17
 Italy 3
 Netherlands 3
 Norway 2
 Poland 2
 Russia 1
 Spain 1
 Sweden 3
 Switzerland 5
 Eire 2
 United Kingdom 24
 Total 115
 Specimen category or type [totals]
 Source: ITSD, 2013
 Specimen type No. % total
 Complete adult skin 44 5.8
 Incomplete adult skin 20 2.6
 Complete juvenile skin 6 0.8
 Incomplete juvenile skin 8 1.1
 Organs [wet] 70 9.3
 Adult [wet] 5 0.7
 Pouch young [wet] * 16* 2.1
 Taxidermy mounts 101 13.4
 Complete skull 310 41.0
 Cranium only 12 1.6
 Mandible only 15 2.0
 Complete wired skeleton 29 3.8
 Complete loose skeleton 50 6.6
 Incomplete wired skeleton 5 0.7
 Incomplete loose skeleton 19 2.5
 Loose individual bones 28 3.7
 Other 18 2.4
 Total 756
 * 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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