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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[3], both having adapted to similar niches. In their prime, thylacines were the apex predators of New Guinea, Australia, and Tasmania.[4] More than 4000 years ago, Asian traders introduced dingoes to Australia.[5]. As happened so often, the placental mammal out-competed the marsupial (aided by European ranchers who didn't want their sheep massacred), and thylacines became extinct on the main island of 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. ICUN on Tylacinus cynocephalus
  2. Dickson's thylacine, Nimbacinus dicksoniWikipedia's W.svg
  3. 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."
  4. Australian Museum: The Thylacine
  5. Mitochondrial DNA data indicate an introduction through Mainland Southeast Asia for Australian dingoes and Polynesian domestic dogs
  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)