Mammal Thylacinus cynocephalus (Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger)

Aussie123

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Thylacinus cynocephalus (Thylacine)

Common Name: Thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger

Scientific Name: Thylacinus cynocephalus

Sub-class: Marsupialia

Family: Thylacinidae

Other Names: Thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger

Distribution: Thought to be extinct.
The Thylacine is thought to have become extremely rare or extinct on the Australian mainland before European arrival (approx 2000 years ago), but it survived in Tasmania until the last known (confirmed) animal died in captivity in 1936.

It is likely that multiple factors led to its decline and eventual extinction, including competition with wild dogs introduced by European settlers, erosion of its habitat, the concurrent extinction of prey species, and a distemper-like disease that also affected many captive specimens at the time. Europeans placed a bounty on the head of every Thylacine and 2,184 bounties are known to have been paid out.

Fossils and Aboriginal rock paintings show that the thylacine once lived throughout Australia and New Guinea. The most recent thylacine remains have been dated as being about 2 200 years old. Predation and competition from the dingo may have contributed to the thylacine's disappearance from mainland Australia and New Guinea.

Bass Strait protected a relict population of thylacines in Tasmania. When Europeans arrived in 1803, thylacines were widespread in Tasmania. At the time of the first settlement, the heaviest distributions were in the northeast, northwest and north-midland regions of Tasmania

In spite of the thylacine being considered extinct, there have been thousands of sightings since 1936, many hundred are considered “credible” sightings:

sightings_map2.jpgsightings_map1.jpg


Habitat:
Their preferred habitat was a mosaic of dry eucalypt forest, wetlands and grasslands. They emerged to hunt on grassy plains and open woodlands during the evening, night and early morning.


Field Notes:
The thylacine looked like a large, long dog, with stripes, a heavy stiff tail and a big head. Its scientific name, Thylacinus cynocephalus, means pouched dog with a wolfs head. Fully grown it measured about 180 cm (6 ft) from nose to tail tip, stood about 58 cm (2 ft) high at the shoulder and weighed up to 30 kg. The short, soft fur was brown except for 13 - 20 dark brown-black stripes that extended from the base of the tail to almost the shoulders. The stiff tail became thicker towards the base and appeared to merge with the body.

Thylacines were usually mute, but when anxious or excited made a series of husky, coughing barks. When hunting, they gave a distinctive terrier-like, double yap, repeated every few seconds. Unfortunately there are no recordings.

The thylacine was shy and secretive and always avoided contact with humans. Despite its common name, 'tiger' it had a quiet, nervous temperament compared to its little cousin, the Tasmanian devil. Captured animals generally gave up without a struggle, and many died suddenly, apparently from shock. When hunting, the thylacine relied on a good sense of smell, and stamina. It was said to pursue its prey relentlessly, until the prey was exhausted. The thylacine was rarely seen to move fast, but when it did it appeared awkward. It trotted stiffly, and when pursued, broke into a kind of shambling canter.

The thylacine was one of only two marsupials to have a pouch in both sexes (the other being the water opossum). The male thylacine had a pouch that acted as a protective sheath, covering the male's external reproductive organs while he ran through thick brush.

Breeding: Breeding is believed to have occurred during winter and spring. A thylacine, like all marsupials, was tiny and hairless when born. It crawled into the mother's rear-opening pouch, and attached itself to one of four teats. Four young could be carried at a time, but the usual litter size was probably three. As the pouch-young grew, the pouch expanded, and became so big that it reached almost to the ground. Large pouch-young had fur with stripes. When old enough to leave the pouch, the young stayed in a lair such as a deep rocky cave, well-hidden nest or hollow log, whilst the mother hunted. Thylacines lived in zoos for up to 9 years, but never bred in captivity. Their life expectancy in the wild was probably 5-7 years

Diet: The thylacine was a meat-eater. In fact, the world's largest marsupial carnivore since the extinction of Thylacoleo the marsupial 'lion'. Its diet is believed to have consisted largely of wallabies, but included various small animals and birds. Since European settlement, the thylacine also preyed upon sheep and poultry, although the extent of this was much exaggerated. Occasionally, the thylacine scavenged. In captivity, thylacines were fed on dead rabbits and wallabies, which they devoured entirely, as well as beef and mutton.


220px-Beutelwolfskelett_brehm.png 220px-ThylacineOslo.jpg220px-Thylacines.jpg Thylacine-footprint.png Thylacinus.jpgtiger1JPG.jpgtiger2JPG.jpgtiger3JPG.jpg tigertpgif.jpg

1930s picture where a thylacine rears up on its hind legs. Note the kangaroo-like posture, the thin tail, the apparently thick forepaw (although the impression is given by both paws being very near to each other)
kangaroo_posture2.jpg

Aboriginal art depicting thylacine, Kakadu,
Northern Australia (Photo by Ina Johnson)
thylacine_ar.jpg

Reference: http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=4765
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thylacine
http://www.tasmanian-tiger.com/thylafiles.html

If you have a signting experiance, please let us know, I'd love to hear about it. Thanks.
 
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chutes

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I found an online article about the Thylacine which is surprisingly informative and gives some well-researched information about the animal's known behaviour and characteristics. Fascinating reading.

Excerpt:

It was risky to hunt thylacines with dogs; the creatures had no fear of dogs and the dogs were often unwilling to tackle trapped thylacines, even if they outnumbered it. According to one hunter, H. S. Mackay: "A bull terrier once set upon a Wolf and bailed it up in a niche in some rocks. There the Wolf stood with its back to the wall, turning its head from side to side, checking the terrier as it tried to butt in from alternate and opposite directions. Finally the dog came in close and the Wolf gave one sharp, fox-like bite, tearing a piece of the dog’s skull clean off, and it fell with the brain protruding, dead." Thylacines did not attack humans unless cornered, although old or half-blind thylacines were recorded as sometimes attacking settlers. All such attacks failed, with the animals being driven off by sticks. When killed, the animals were found to be starving and almost toothless. They sometimes dogged the steps of humans, probably out of curiosity, although this was unsettling and contributed to their bad reputation.
The complete article here: http://www.fanpop.com/spots/thylacine/articles/73633/title/thylacine
 

Aussie123

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The more you research and read, the more fascinating these creatures seem to be.

There are even "proposals" to re-create the species by cloning ! There is a bit of work going on to re-sequence the DNA (from some specimens at the Australian Museum), but whether this leads to an actual cloning attempt is probably speculative.
 

J.K.M

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Excellent post Aussie123, thank you.

"Thylacines were usually mute, but when anxious or excited made a series of husky, coughing barks. When hunting, they gave a distinctive terrier-like, double yap, repeated every few seconds. Unfortunately there are no recordings." - on two separate occasions now I have heard a 'yapping' call in remote areas of bush in the NW of Tasmania and have often wondered about it ... Is anyone aware of any other Animal that might make a high pitch dog like 'yap' ?
 

Hairyman

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Hi JKM,
Yes, the red fox makes a high pitched bark/yap....not good for tassie!
Did the hair on the back of your neck stand on end? ... mine would!
 

Dusty Miller

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Small terrriers sometimes make noises a lot like small terriers too. Tassie does have some feral dog issues. Hairy is right too about foxes, they can make some very strange noises.


Excerpt:


It was risky to hunt thylacines with dogs; the creatures had no fear of dogs and the dogs were often unwilling to tackle trapped thylacines, even if they outnumbered it. According to one hunter, H. S. Mackay: "A bull terrier once set upon a Wolf and bailed it up in a niche in some rocks. There the Wolf stood with its back to the wall, turning its head from side to side, checking the terrier as it tried to butt in from alternate and opposite directions. Finally the dog came in close and the Wolf gave one sharp, fox-like bite, tearing a piece of the dog’s skull clean off, and it fell with the brain protruding, dead." Thylacines did not attack humans unless cornered, although old or half-blind thylacines were recorded as sometimes attacking settlers. All such attacks failed, with the animals being driven off by sticks. When killed, the animals were found to be starving and almost toothless. They sometimes dogged the steps of humans, probably out of curiosity, although this was unsettling and contributed to their bad reputation.
The complete article here: http://www.fanpop.com/spots/thylacin...itle/thylacine
This passage makes me wonder if the guy who did the biostatics analysis on the thylacine may have made some assumptions about how it bites. Remember somewhere it was said that the skull showed that the bite was not as powerful as a dogs bite. However, the thylacines jaw opening is very much wider than a dogs, so they may have used their muscles dynamically, like a hammer rather than a like pair of pliers (static force). The wide opening would give them a longer "swing" than a dog.
 
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gelandangan

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Fascinating topic.
I got a few hours of wonder about on links provided..
 

J.K.M

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@ Hairyman - Thanks for the info. I sincerely hope I haven't heard foxes! But something to listen out for.

@ DustyMiller - I've had a couple of brief encounters with wild dogs around the Walls of Jersualem NP area and Central Plateau. An unpleasant site in the wilds of Tassie!
 

Hairyman

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Aussie,
Ive not had a sighting myself but know a reliable person who has spent countless hours in the bush who
says he saw something in the Kilkivan area (SEQ) that looked like a thylacine. He said it had no stripes.

As far as bite force goes its a pity David Fleay isnt still around as he was bitten on the bum whilst entering
the thylacine pen in Tas (1930s). Must have been at least hard enough for him to remember it!
David Fleay had a fauna sanctary at Healsville and later on at the Gold Coast.
Its been suggested they could have made good pets and were breeding well in captivity at one stage.

Hairy
 

auscraft

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Also the sunshine coast hinterland there have been many recent sightings.
 

Dusty Miller

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I wonder what the actual stats are, I bet its not reported in most cases.
 

darren

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There are even "proposals" to re-create the species by cloning ! There is a bit of work going on to re-sequence the DNA (from some specimens at the Australian Museum), but whether this leads to an actual cloning attempt is probably speculative.
You hear this touted now and then but the money would be far better spent on a living animal that is nearing extinction.

I go to Tassie once a year or so and they have a funny relationship with the tiger. It is used to represent everything from bus lines to sports teams and all number of businesses. You cannot exist in built up areas of Tassie without seeing references to it and its on their coat of arms. Any newcomer to the area would be forgiven for thinking its a living animal cherished by the state, as opposed to one that they killed to extinction about 80 years ago. Rather than be ashamed of it they almost seem to embrace it.
It probably gets more press than devils which we may lose in our lifetime.
 

Aussie123

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The intrigue continues !

I think the most mysterious aspect is, in spite of all the reputable sightings, there seems to be a lack of physical evidence.
Perhaps those scats will reveal the first piece of physical evidence? Call me a cynic, but I suspect they will be “inconclusive” at best !

The vid is interesting !
 

Hairyman

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While visiting the National Science museum in Canberra recently the staff there very kindly let
me handle and photograph good casts of a thylacine and a canid ( Canis latrans, coyote) for comparison.
While superficially similar the thylacine of course has a very different evolutionary history being a marsupial and
a closer look reveals many differences.
The coyote skull is very similar to our dingos, dogs and foxes.
Size varies a lot in both species but in these casts the smaller one is the coyote.

DSCF9416 (800x600).jpg
DSCF9417 (800x602).jpg
 

Hairyman

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The thylacine has two holes toward the back of the palate, this is absent in canids.
These holes would be a bit clearer in a real skull.
DSCF9429 (800x600).jpg

Coyote
DSCF9430 (800x600).jpg
 
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