The Swedish Thylacine Specimen

The Swedish thylacine specimen in ethanol is NRM 566599 in the mammal collection of the Swedish Museum of Natural History (Stockholm), adult female, dated 30 April 1893 and received from the London Zoo. We also made an attempt to obtain sequence from the mounted skin of an adult male thylacine specimen in the Swedish Museum that was collected in 1870 (NRM 592206), but were unsuccessful.


Photo: Staffan Waerndt, copyright Swedish Museum of Natural History.

Anders Götherström and Love Dalén (Copenhagen) had been working with Stephan Schuster and Webb Miller on previous projects and were aware of the potential of the method that was being developed at Penn State. As they were discussing the evolution of the Tasmanian tiger, they remembered the specimen kept in ethanol at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. "This is really a beautiful piece of museum collection", says Anders. "When looking at it, you have the feeling that it is about to jump out of the jar and run away." They contacted Stephan and Webb to investigate the possibility of sequencing a large portion of its DNA. "With the results from the previous mammoth studies, we were hoping to be able to retrieve a complete mitochondrial sequence, and to be able to better resolve the species' phylogenetic position", says Love. Anders and Love collected material from the Swedish specimen, and after initial successful screening (partly supported by Spain's Juan Luis Arsuaga, who also takes an interest in the evolution of the Tasmanian tiger), full sampling on several specimens could be carried out. "When we finally did have the complete mitochondria, it was with some comfort we could conclude that the phylogenetic analyses carried out both in Sweden at the museum and in the United States, yielded the same evolutionary history for the animal", says Per Ericson (Stockholm), who also took part in the study.