The rarest of all thylacine specimens, and certainly the most poignant,
are the "wet"
preserved adults, of which only five partially eviscerated carcasses exist
within four museum collections. Undoubtedly, the best preserved of
these is a female thylacine in the Swedish Museum of Natural History collection
in Stockholm. This thylacine was on display at the London Zoo from
1884 to 1893, and was originally purchased by the Zoological Society from
Dr. A. Bingham Crowther of Launceston. This specimen is one of two
specimens from which the mitochondrial genome was first sequenced by a
team at the Pennsylvania State University, Centre for Comparative Genomics
& Bioinformatics. A juvenile male and a headless female are preserved
at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, a partially skinned
male within the collection of the National Australia Museum in Canberra,
and a headless sectioned torso at the Grant Museum (UCL) in London.
Stephen Sleightholme (ITSD Project Director) examining a thylacine skin
at the World Museum in Liverpool. Courtesy - World Museum, Liverpool.
Photo: Nicholas Ayliffe.
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 78 thylacine skins preserved in 21 institutional and 4 private
collections. Of this total, 50 are complete, and 28 incomplete (missing
either the head, limbs, or tail). There are 64 adult, 12 juvenile, and
2 pouch young skins, of which 38 (49%) are sexed (20 M & 18 F).
Skins, excluding those used in taxidermy, are traditionally prepared and
stored in one of three ways; flat, rolled, or partially stuffed as study
skins. The largest single collection of thylacine skins in any institution
are those of Museum Victoria in Melbourne, with a total of 14. Other
significant collections with 5 or more skins are: the British Museum of
Natural History (London), the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
(Washington, DC), Cambridge University Zoological Museum, the Australian
Museum (Sydney) and the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery (Hobart).
Taxidermy mounts are primarily created for display. There are 101
known thylacine taxidermy mounts held within 72 collections, of which 76
are sexed (53 M & 23 F). 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. 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.
Stephen Sleightholme (ITSD Project Director) with the thylacine taxidermy
mounts in the Leiden Museum of Natural History (Naturalis) collection in
the Netherlands. Courtesy - Naturalis.
Photo: Nicholas Ayliffe.