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The thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus, Greek for "dog-headed pouched one"), often referred to as the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf[3][4] colloquially, is an extinct genus of carnivorous marsupial which lived during from the early Pliocene epoch to the late Holocene epoch.

Once widespread throughout Australasia, after the late Holocene, the species' population boiled down to a small population only surviving in Tasmania. Due to people associating attacks on livestock with thylacines, the population further decreased until 1936, when the last confirmed specimen died at the Hobart Zoo.

After its extinction, there have been many sightings of Tasmanian tigers in Tasmania as well as mainland Australia, despite its regional extinction 2,000 years ago.

Description

The thylacine was a rather large, dog-like marsupial. Adults measured around 61 cm (2 ft) tall at the shoulder[2] and males could reach a length of 162.6 cm (5.3 ft) from its head to the tip of its tail.[5] They typically weighed between 30–34 kg (65–75 lb) by adulthood.

Its head was quite large in relation to the rest of its body. Its face was gray and its eyes were bordered by white markings. Its ears were short and rounded. The creature also possessed large jaws that were flexible enough to nearly open to a 90° angle yet were relatively weak in action.[2]

On its lower back, rump and tail, there were 13–19 vertical, brown-black stripes. The rest of the body had a yellow-brown to grayish-brown colouration. However, some reports specify that the creature lacks stripes or is completely black.[2] Its legs are short and its tail is long, at 61 cm (2 ft), stiff, and tapers to a point.[6]

Behaviour

PlantigradeThylacine1933

A captive thylacine assuming a bipedal 'kangaroo' stance.

The thylacine was a primarily nocturnal creature, taciturn and reclusive, but it was known to occasionally bask in the sun.[6] Although it is usually quiet, it was known to make a "terrier-like double yap" when hunting, a deep growl when annoyed, and a whine. Some people who have claimed to have seen one noted that, when threatened, it could rear up on its hind legs and hop in a similar manner to a kangaroo.[2]

Much like dogs and cats, it was digitigrade, meaning that it walked on its toes. However, compared to canids, thylacines had longer hind legs which gave them a loping gait.[2][7]

A thylacine's diet consisted of wallabies, small animals and birds. It was rumoured that they killed livestock; this was never substantiated but this claim contributed to its extermination and extinction.[2]

Sightings and discoveries

Mainland Australia

1955

1964

Thylacine1964

A photograph of an alleged thylacine, taken in 1964 by Rilla Martin on the Australian mainland.

1972

1973

Read more: Doyle film

1974

1984

1987

1995

Tasmania

1937–38

1945

1947

1958

1982

1986

Papua New Guinea

Read more: Dobsegna

Explanations

Footnotes

Notes
  1. This does not include sightings of the animal before its extinction in 1936.
References
  1. The Doyle film, which allegedly shows a thylacine specimen, was filmed in mainland Australia, despite becoming extinct in the mainland around 2,000 years ago.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 G. M. Eberhart, “Mystery Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology,” ABC-CLIO, Inc (2002) p. 547, ISBN 1-57607-283-5
  3. As well as the common alternative names, the thylacine was referred to by a range of other names, which often makes clear identification of the species in historical records difficult. Other names by which it is occasionally identified include marsupial wolf, hyena, zebra wolf, kangaroo wolf, zebra opossum, marsupial tiger, tiger cat, Tasmanian pouched wolf and hyena opossum.
  4. "Thylacine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia" en.wikipedia.org [Accessed 03 June 2015]
  5. "Thylacinus cynocephalus — Thylacine, Tasmanian Tiger" environment.gov.au [Accessed 17 April 2017]
  6. 6.0 6.1 R. M. Nowak, “Walker's Marsupials of the World” The Johns Hopkins University Press (2005) p. 118–9, ISBN 0-8018-8222-2
  7. "The Thylacine Museum - Biology: Behaviour (page 10)" naturalworlds.org [Accessed 18 April 2017]
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