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The thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), more commonly known as the Tasmanian wolf or Tasmanian tiger, was the largest modern marsupial carnivore until it went extinct in 1936.[1] Thylacines first evolved around 23 million years ago[2] and had become practically marsupial dogs,[note 1] both having adapted to similar niches. In their prime, thylacines were the apex predators of New Guinea, Australia, and Tasmania, although Tasmanian devils likely preyed on their young.[3] More than 4000 years ago, Asian traders introduced dingoes to Australia.[4] Dingoes and thylacines occupied different ecological niches (like the opossum eating in your trash can live in harmony with the raccoon also eating from your trash), but apparently shared diseases,[5] and thylacines became extinct on mainland Australia. A population persisted on Tasmania, but hunting continued, and in 1936, the species became extinct.


Despite its extinction, some 3800 unconfirmed sightings of the thylacine have been reported.[6] In addition, there are the usual dubious photographs and government funded searches that turn up nothing.[7][8] Some sightings apparently even come from mainland Australia and New Guinea,[9][10] where thylacines have been extinct for literally thousands of years.[11]

Cloning and genetics[edit]

In 1999, a project to clone the thylacine began, and even claimed a breakthrough.[12] Unfortunately, the project was canceled in 2005.[13] Some work has been done since on thylacine genetics, including the sequencing of the thylacine mitochondrial genome, and possibly getting the nuclear genome for $1 million.[14]


See also[edit]


  1. Richard Dawkins once said in The Ancestor's Tale "...the skeleton [of a thylacine] is harder to distinguish [from a dog]. Zoology students at Oxford had to identify 100 zoological specimens as part of the final exam. Word soon got around that, if ever a 'dog' skull was given, it was safe to identify it as Thylacinus on the grounds that anything as obvious as a dog skull had to be a catch."


  1. ICUN on Tylacinus cynocephalus
  2. See the Wikipedia article on Nimbacinus dicksoni.
  3. Australian Museum: The Thylacine
  4. Mitochondrial DNA data indicate an introduction through Mainland Southeast Asia for Australian dingoes and Polynesian domestic dogs
  5. Lauren C. White; Frédérik Saltré; Corey J. A. Bradshaw; Jeremy J. Austin (2018). "High-quality fossil dates support a synchronous, Late Holocene extinction of devils and thylacines in mainland Australia". Biology Letters. 14 (1): 20170642. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2017.0642. PMC 5803592 Freely accessible. PMID 29343562.
  6. Australian Rare Fauna Research Association FAQ
  7. The Sydney Morning Herald:Tourist claims to have snapped Tasmanian tiger
  8. The Sydney Morning Herald:Mystery that burns so bright
  9. The Cryptid Zoo:Thyacine
  10. Scientists investigate Tasmanian tiger sightings by Mindy Weisberger (March 31, 2017, 1:25 PM) CBS News.
  11. Paddle, Robert (2000). The Last Tasmanian Tiger: the History and Extinction of the Thylacine. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-53154-2
  12. The Guardian:Back from the dead
  13. ABC News Online: Museum ditches thylacine cloning project via the Wayback Machine
  14. NCBI:The mitochondrial genome sequence of the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus)