Thylacine is an extinct animal species which was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times. The animal species is also known as Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf. It was the last extant member of its family, Thylacinidae, specimens of other members of the family have been found in the fossil record dating back to the late Oligocene. The species was an apex predator, like the tigers and wolves of the Northern Hemisphere from which it obtained two of its common names. It was not closely related to the placental mammals.
The animal species had become extremely rare or extinct on the Australian mainland before the British settlement of the continent, but it survived on the island of Tasmania along with several other endemic species, including the Tasmanian devil. But other contributing factors may have been disease, dogs and the human interface in their habitat. As the species is declared extinct, the sighting of the animal is still reported, but none have been confirmed. The thylacine has been described as a formidable predator.
Characteristics of Thylacine
The description for the animal species may vary because the evidence is restricted to preserved joey specimens, fossil records, skins, and skeleton, black and white photos and film of the animal in captivity. The animal species was Australia’s largest predator 3500 years ago when dingoes were introduced by human settlers. The appearance of the Thylacine was like a large, short-haired dog with a stiff tail which smoothly extended from the body just like a kangaroo. Some of the European settles compare this with the hyena because of its unusual stance and general demeanor.
It had yellow-brown coat featured 15 to 20 distinctive dark stripes across its back, rump, and the base of its tail, which earned the nickname for this animal ‘tiger’. The stripes on the back were more pronounced in the younger specimen, fading as the animal got older. One of the stripes extended down the outside of the rear thigh. It had the dense and soft body hair, up to 15 mm in length. Its rounded, erect ears had the length about 8 cm and covered with the short fur. The coloration of the skin varied from light fawn to a dark brown, while the belly was cream-colored.
The modern thylacine probably appeared about 4 million years ago. The animal species date back to the beginning of the Miocene, since the early 1990s, at least seven fossil species have been uncovered at Riversleigh, part of Lawn Hill National Park in northwest Queensland. There is one of the oldest fossil discovered dating back to 23 million years ago which was much smaller than its more recent relatives. The largest species grew to the size of a wolf, was the only species to survive into the late Miocene.
The first detailed scientific description was given by Tasmania’s Deputy Surveyor-General, George Harris in 1808. The statement was given after five years of first settlement of the island. Harris originally placed the thylacine with the genus Didelphis, but later in 1810, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire created the genus Dasyurys where he placed Thylacine. Several studies found that the Dasyuromorphia and the Tasmanian devil as its closest living relative. The species emits a series of rapidly repeated guttural cough-like barks.
The animal species was a nocturnal and crepuscular hunter, spending the daytime in the small caves or hollow tree trunks in a nest of twigs, bark or fern fronds. It tended to retreat to the hills and forest for shelter during the day and hunted in the open heath at the night. It was noticed that the animal was typically shy and secretive, with awareness of the presence of humans and generally avoiding contact, though it occasionally showed inquisitive traits.
The animal species were carnivorous. The diet of the animal included kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats, birds, and small mammals such as potoroos, and possums. Some European researchers believe that they species prey upon farmers’ sheep and poultry. In captivity, the animal species were fed a wide variety of foods, including dead rabbits, and wallabies as well as beef, horse, mutton, and occasionally poultry. It had the muscular stomach and could distend to allow a large amount of food at one time.
Some studies showed that the animal may have hunted in small family groups, with the main group herding prey in the general direction of an individual waiting in ambush, so it had also named as the ambush predator. Animals usually take prey close to their own body size, but an adult of 30 kg was found to easily handle of prey much larger than 5 Kg. The researchers only ate small animals such as bandicoots and possums, putting them into direct competition with the Tasmanian devil and the tiger quoll.
The thylacine was once widespread over continental Australia, extending north to New Guinea, South to Tasmania. Recently, it was confirmed to Tasmania where its presence has not been established conclusively for more than seventy years. The species was best known from the north and east coast and midland plains region rather than from the mountains of the south-west. The animal species might prefer the dry eucalyptus forests, grasslands in continental Australia, wetlands.
The animal existence proof in mainland Australia came from a desiccated carcass that was discovered in a cave in the Nullarbor plains in Western Australia in 1990. It appears t have kept to its home range without being territorial; groups too large to be a family unit were sometimes observed together. The striped pattern may have provided camouflage in woodland conditions, but it may have also served for identification purposes. The animal has a typical territory range between 15 to 31 sq/m.
The precise reasons for the extinction of the Thylacine from mainland Australia are not known it appears to have declined as a result of competition with the Dingo and perhaps hunting pressure from humans. The increase of the human population tears out their habitat which becomes the cause of their extinction as they were unable to survive without an appropriate solution. The animal species became extinct on the Australian mainland more than 2000 years ago. The extinction and decline in Tasmania were probably hastened by the introduction of dogs but appears mainly due to the direct human persecution as an alleged pest.
Thylacine Interesting facts
- The thylacine animal species resemblance to dogs was totally superficial.
- The species were mainly nocturnal.
- The species jaws could open to a 120 degrees angle but had a very weak bite.
- The species had the length about 4.6-5.1 ft and weight about 40-70 pounds.
- The males were slightly larger than females.
- The species had short, light brown coat with 13 to 21 dark transverse stripes on the back.
- The animal species was mostly active during the night.
- Yet the species was quadrupedally, but it was also able to stand on the hind legs and travel short distances by hopping like a kangaroo.
- The animals were the carnivore and their diet based on the Kangaroos, wallabies, and small mammals and birds.
- The species had an average lifespan about of 5-7 years in wild and 9 years in the captivity.
The breeding in the Thylacine is believed that mostly occurred during the winter and spring. The young juveniles were born tiny and hairless. It crawled into the mother’s rear opening pouch and attached itself to one of four teats. The female could carry four babies at one time, but the usual litter size was probably three. The young stayed in a lair such as a deep rocky cave, well-hidden nest or hollow log, whilst the mother hunted. In the captivity, these had the lifespan of 9 years while only 5-7 years in the wild.
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