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MODERN RESEARCH PROJECTS:
- THE INTERNATIONAL THYLACINE SPECIMEN DATABASE -
(page 4)
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    There are 12 pouch young specimens preserved in alcohol listed within the fourth revision of the ITSD.  Two of these specimens, recorded in the catalogue of the Museum of Vertebrates at Cornell
University, could not be located and are presumed to no longer exist.   Of the ten extant specimens, a male in the collection of Museum Victoria was sectioned for microscopy in 1994, and now exists as a series of microscopy slides.  Of the nine remaining specimens, three are in the collection of Museum Victoria in Melbourne, one in the Australian Museum in Sydney, and five in the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery in Hobart.

    Without doubt, the single most important discovery in the 5th revision of the ITSD was the location in November 2011 of a litter of four pouch young (DZCU 8021 [1-4]) in the collection of the Department of Zoology (Faculty of Science) at Charles University in Prague (DZCU 8021 [1-4]).  The pouch young were described for the first time by Sleightholme, Robovský & Vohralík in a paper entitled: "Description of four newly discovered thylacine pouch young and a comparison with Boardman (1945)", published in the Australian Zoologist in December 2012.  They are the only known wet specimens of pouch young outside of Australia, and the earliest in terms of their morphology, with an estimated age of less than 2 weeks.  The discovery of the Charles University specimens provides researchers with a valuable insight into the early development of the thylacine, and brings the total of known pouch young in collections to 14 (16 if we include the missing Cornell specimens).

    Osteological remains are by far the most durable of all specimen types.  Sixty-four percent of thylacine specimens are skeletal, with skulls predictably forming the bulk of this material.  There are 322 skulls recorded in the ITSD, 310 of which are complete with mandibles.  Of the 103 skeletons listed, there are 29 complete and 5 incomplete wired mounts, and 50 complete and 19 incomplete loose boxed skeletons.  The remainder of the skeletal material is comprised of individual loose bones.  Skeletal mounts, although important in demonstrating the visual relationship between specific bones and joints, are not as valuable to researchers as stored unarticulated bones.

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thylacine pouch young (DZCU 8021 [1-4])
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Thylacine pouch young (DZCU 8021 [1-4]).  Courtesy: Dept. Zoology, Charles University.  Photo: Jan Robovský.
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ITSD Project Director Dr. Stephen Sleightholme - image  Nicholas Ayliffe
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Dr Stephen Sleightholme (ITSD Project Director) working on thylacine specimen material in the South Australian Museum collection.  Photo: Nicholas Ayliffe.
    Loose bones are of importance in many aspects of pure research.  They can be used to accurately determine an animal's size, and for gauging anatomical variation within a species.  They also provide an opportune source for the extraction of DNA.

    A 153-page project summary and comprehensive historical review accompanies the 5th revision of the ITSD.  This summary provides a detailed analysis of the specimen types and consolidates the project's findings.  The historical review richly chronicles the efforts of professional and amateur collectors to supply thylacine specimens to museums and zoological gardens, and acknowledges the predominant role played by the Royal Society of Tasmania in the acquisition, exchange and transfer of specimens between collections.  The "commercial" trade in thylacine specimens is discussed, together with other routes of supply - e.g., bounty schemes, the fur trade and diplomatic channels through which specimens entered collections.

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ITSD Fifth Revision DVD-ROM cover
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ITSD Fifth Revision DVD-ROM cover.

    "With every revision of the ITSD, new and exciting discoveries are being made, each one of which is contributing to a greater understanding of this remarkable marsupial carnivore.  Databases like the ITSD are important catalysts in facilitating such research".
Dr. Stephen Sleightholme
Project Director
International Thylacine Specimen Database

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References
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back to: The International Thylacine Specimen Database (page 3) return to the section's introduction forward to: The Thylacine Genome Project (page 1)


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