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Tasmanian Tigers Were Not A Threat

Tasmanian Tigers Were Not A Threat

Thylacine lithograph, 1884 (credit: Wikipedia)

The annals of extinction is long. Any list of extinct creatures includes the dodo, Sellers' sea cow, the Ivory-billed woodpecker, wooly mammoths, and the Tasmanian Tiger. The Thylacine was a marsupial dog-like carnivore native to Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. It was the last extant member of a family of animals that persisted since the Miocene 4 million years ago up until the early-20th Century. According to Wikipedia: "The thylacine had become extremely rare on the Australian mainland before European settlement but it survived on Tasmania. The government blamed them for attacks on introduced sheep herds and established bounty hunts."

The last known Tasmanian tiger died at the Hobart Zoo in Tasmania in 1936. Here is rare 1933 film footage of a thylacine in captivity:

However, bounties were a mistake since the animals were physiologically incapable of killing a sheep. The Journal of Zoology has published an examination of thylacine skull and jawbone structures and the animal didn't have the muscle strength capable of bitting and holding onto a large animal like a sheep. Since large ungulates like sheep never existed in Australia, indigenous carnivores never evolved to hunt them. A Thylacine's jaws were far better adapted to hunting marsupial mice and other small animals or ground dwelling birds. Their extinction brought an end to an animal line that had survived in Australia for 4 million years and seen now only in pictographs painted by aboriginal clans.


                  Last wild Tasmanian Tiger killed, 1930 (Public Domain)

So the Thylacine was not guilty as charged of being a vicious livestock predator. Despite its official classification as extinct, sightings are still reported but none so far confirmed. Hope springs eternal for the existence of a living population of extinct animals being discovered.


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