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MODERN RESEARCH PROJECTS:
- THE INTERNATIONAL THYLACINE SPECIMEN DATABASE -
(page 2)
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    The ITSD lists all the available catalogue data for each individual specimen - e.g. country, city, holding institution (and its acronym), identification number(s) (old & current), date of acquisition (accession), sex of specimen, specimen type, collector, source, purchase and exchange details, and finally, any additional remarks pertaining to the specimen.  Specimen material within the ITSD is subdivided into 17 categories, the largest of which is complete skulls (with a total of 310 specimens), accounting for just over 41% of the total specimen count.

    "The International Thylacine Specimen Database is a wonderful research resource and an extremely valuable part of Australia's natural heritage".
Prof. Dr. Heinz F. Moeller
Former Director of the Zoological Museum & Department of Comparative Morphology of Vertebrates, Heidelberg University
Author of "Der Beutelwolf"

     To support the data component of the ITSD and to significantly enhance its educational worth, high-resolution digital images of the specimens are included. The primary justification for including digital images was to:

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1.  Allow researchers remote visual access to thylacine specimen material and to its accompanying data, thus encouraging and promoting continued research into the species.
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2. Conserve source specimen material from excessive handling, hence directly contributing to its long-term preservation.
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3.  Assist with the security of source material in that a photographic record existed for all specimens within the database.
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4.  Preserve digital images of the specimens in their current state of preservation.  The ITSD specimen image bank forms the largest single photographic resource of its kind anywhere in the world.
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    "The data sets within the ITSD are supported by an image bank of around 2000 high-resolution digital specimen photographs. All biological material deteriorates over time and this unique resource will act as a permanent record of the specimens for future generations in their present state of preservation".
Nicholas Ayliffe
Principal photographer to ITSD Project
ITSD Photographer Nicholas Ayliffe - image  Dr. Stephen Sleightholme
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Nicholas Ayliffe (Photographer to the ITSD Project) with a taxidermy specimen in the Leiden Museum of Natural History (Naturalis) in the Netherlands.
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    Natural history museums traditionally collect, classify, conserve, study and exhibit biological specimen material.  The value in creating these collections is partially in the data that accompanies the specimens.  Without this information, the specimens' value to science is markedly degraded.  Taxonomy was the pioneering science of the nineteenth century, and to some extent it galvanised the race to acquire as many new specimens as possible.  In this pursuit, valuable field data was frequently omitted, lost or destroyed.  Consequently, detail within the accession records for many of the thylacine specimens is sparse to say the least.  Only 51 specimens in the 5th revision of the ITSD, or fewer than 7% of the total, have any location specific provenance, with the bulk of catalogue entries simply noting the locality of collection as Tasmania.  This percentage will rise with the research being undertaken for the 6th revision of the ITSD.

    The vast majority of thylacine specimens (where the accession date is known) were acquired by their respective institutions in the seventy-year period from 1860 to 1930.  A total of 28 specimens listed within the ITSD are recorded prior to 1860, and 7 (excluding re-registrations) post-1930.

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CT scan of a thylacine skull
X-ray of a thylacine pup
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A series of CT (computerized tomography) scans of a thylacine skull (left) from the Royal College of Surgeons (England) collection are included together with 3D images and an animation of thylacine dentition.  An X-ray of Australian Museum thylacine pup AMS P762 (right) is also among the 2000+ images within the ITSD.
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References
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back to: The International Thylacine Specimen Database (page 1) return to the section's introduction forward to: The International Thylacine Specimen Database (page 3)


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