The curious case of the ‘extinct’ thylacine…

Back from the dead??

The thylacine was a top marsupial predator native to Australasia. It was also known as the ‘Tasmanian tiger’ as it only has stripes on the lower half of its back (opposite to the extinct Quagga – a zebra subspecies which had stripes only on the upper half of its back). It was also known as the ‘Tasmanian wolf’, having skull morphology similar to a canid. These creatures were apex predators – they were formidable in the way they could hunt down prey in harsh and sparse environments, but actually also had a calm, shy demeanour – as they were nocturnal and reclusive.


The thylacine was morphologically similar to the placental mammals tigers and wolves, sharing features such as the stripes on its back and its general body shape (tiger and wolf respectively). This similarity was due to convergent evolution: the process whereby species which are distantly related to each other will independently evolve similar physiological traits, as a result of their similar environments. The thylacine and tigers / wolves resided in different parts of the world which had a similar climate and environment. Thus, even with geographic isolation, these species appeared superficially similar as they had to adapt in the same ways to fill the similar ecological niches in their own parts of the world.


Unfortunately, thylacines became extinct in the 20th century, due to a combination of human settlement upon its habitat, and the effects that came with this; such as disease, invasive species introduced by settlers, habitat destruction, and direct hunting for money. However, despite the last thylacine dying in captivity in a zoo in 1936, rendering the species ‘extinct’ – many thylacine sightings are still reported today, though none has been proven…so is this amazing animal still here?! … Cue creepy music!


Thanks for reading! Jen 😀

References for content and images:


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