Thylacine jaw rediscovered after decades in first-year Biology class

A jawbone from the extinct thylacine or Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) acquired by the Tiegs Zoology Museum in the early 1920s was rediscovered in a first-year Biology practical class at the University of Melbourne.

The thylacine jawbone, along with four other early 20th century skulls were found in use in a practical class in September and identified by Tiegs Museum collection manager Dr Rohan Long. The thylacine jaw was unlabelled (apart from an accession number), unidentified and mixed up with dog skulls as an example of carnivorous dentition. Dr Long identified the jaw as the counterpart of a thylacine skull held in the collection.

Biology staff have confirmed that these historically significant specimens have been in use in this class for at least 20 years, probably far longer. Why the jaw would have been separated from the skull and used, unidentified, in first-year practical classes is something of a mystery.

The thylacine was declared extinct in 1936 and all thylacine specimens are extremely valuable. The Tiegs Zoology Museum has three thylacine skulls, all now complete with lower jaws. For the first time in decades the jaw and skull have been reunited and are on display in the museum.

Image: The reunited thylacine skull and jaw bone. Tiegs Zoology Museum, University of Melbourne