Australian Animal Archive

Tasmanian Tiger.

Thylacinus cynocephalus (sie'-noh-sef'-al-us : "dog-headed pouched-dog")

Status: Extinct

Tasmanian Tiger - Thylacinus cynocephalus.

The Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger as it is commonly known in more recent times was one of Australian's largest carnivorous marsupial. The size of it head and forequarters remarkably resembled that of a wild dog, while its actual brain size was considerable smaller.

This could be one explanation why the Thylacine became extinct on mainland Australia after the introduction of the Dingo by Asian sailors over 5000 years ago. The introduced Dingo didn't reach Tasmania, which had become separated from mainland Australia 12,000 years previous.

There is little know about the biology of the Thylacine. The Thylacine was nocturnal, hunting marsupials at night and sleeping in dense vegetation by day. The Thylacine was not a fast predator and more than likely stalked until its prey became tired.

When sheep farming was introduced into Tasmania, the Thylacine took advantage of lambs, weak sheep and penned sheep. For this reason a large bounty was placed on the Thylacine head, although only a small number of Thylacine were trapped and killed, it did help reduce their numbers. The rapid decline of the population was more than likely the result of its habitat being taken over for agriculture.

Breeding is believed to be throughout the year, with a peak of births in winter and spring. Females had four teats in a backward opening pouch. Occasionally up to four young were reared but usually two to three young being reared at any one time.

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