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Alexandra Midnight

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What Happened?-Story of the Thylacine
By Alexandra Midnight   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, September 26, 2009
Posted: Saturday, September 26, 2009

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This article is on the thylacine. A unique creatures that was slaughtered to the point of extinction and deserves to be remembered.

 

        A young female thylacine awakes. Greeted by her young, she stretches. After the morning meals the mother takes her young out roaming around. One of the babies steps into the clutches of a trap, screaming out with pain, bleeding severely from open wounds, caught. Then before the rest had a chance to escape and take in what happened the hunters start to shoot. Some were shot down others ran into traps. The hunters cheered out with their success. One infant, able to escape, watched from its hiding place as the hunters finish off the massacre on her family and drag them away. Slowly approaching the deathbed the baby smells the blood and sits to weep over her family’s gruesome death. For the next few weeks the baby sits there, hungry and alone until finally she silently died in her agony and pain.

 

        In 1909 the thylacine slaughter was opened. Many of these magnificent creatures died in the way described above. It was first opened to increase the population of its natural prey and to protect people’s cattle. Another small factor in the start of it was fear. This slaughter soon turned cold. People found joy out of killing and trapping these unique creatures. They collected their furs for profit and held them in captivity until they died. They started to kill young innocent pups and their parents who could nothing to stop it. But the killing didn’t end there it ended when it was too late. The thylacine was gone.

       

        The thylacine is a very unique creature. It is said to have characteristics similar to a wolf, kangaroo, tiger, and Tasmanian devil. Its skeleton is almost identical to that of a wolf’s with slight differences in bone shape. Its hind legs have the power to push the thylacine forward into a run similar to a kangaroo jumping. It has stripes like that of a tiger but their different. They are more closely compared to a cephalophus zebra, African zebra duiker or stripped back zebra. And it reproduces in the same way as a Tasmanian devil. The thylacine is classified as a carnivorous marsupial.

 

        Its average weight is 45 pounds and stands at 24 inches tall at the shoulder. Its total length from tip of nose to end of tail is 39-51 inches. Its tail measures from 20-26 inches. Its coat is a grayish brown with thirteen to nineteen black stripes on its back. The eyes are large and black, and the ears are round. Females have a rear opening pouch and four teats. The average life expectancy is eight to twelve years. They can also jump six to eight feet in the air. Thylacines have a very unique foot print too; they have five claws on their fore legs and four claws on their hind legs.

 

        Thylacines are part of the family thylacinidae, which is part of the order dasyuromorphia. The genus is thlacinus. There are four other animals in this family. The thylacinus macnessi, thylacinus megiriani, thylacinus potens, and thylacinus rostralis are its relatives. Thlacinus potens means “powerful thylacine”. It’s one of the largest species in the family. It’s about the size of a wolf but more robust with a shorter broader skull than the thylacine.  The thylacinus megiriani’s fossils were found at Alcoota. Its closest living relative is the Tasmanian devil and the quoll but that’s more distant. It also has two very unique extinct cousins the thylacoleo and thylacosmilus. 

 

        The thylacosmilus, a carnivorous marsupial, became extinct around 2 million years ago.  It was part of the family thylacosmilidae. It lived during the late Miocene and early Pliocene epoch in South America. Its scientific name is thylacosmilus atrox which means pouch-knife. Out of all the saber-toothed puncture killers the thylacosmilus had the most specialized teeth. They continued to grow throughout the animal’s life to compensate for wear on the tips. Their fangs tapered at an edge on both the front and back cusps. These very specialized teeth are believed to be an adaptation to cut through the thick and sometimes armored coats of its prey. Its most distinct feature separating it from other saber toothed cats was the flanges that jut down and slope away from the jaw. The thylacosmilus is about the same size and has the same build of a modern jaguar. That indicates it was most likely an ambush hunter except it lacked retractable claws. Like all marsupials the thylacosmilus would have reproduced in the same way. The only actual proof of its existence is two partial skeletons found in Argentina.

 

        The thylacoleo lived during the Pleistocene and was part of the family thylacoleonidae. Its scientific name is thylacoleo carnifex. It is the largest carnivorous mammal to have lived in Australia and one of the largest carnivorous marsupials. It was 1.5 meters in length from head to tail and 75 centimeters tall at the shoulder. This massive creature hunted many animals including the diprotodon. It had an enormous slicing check tooth, large incisors for stabbing and a huge thumb claw. Out of all living and extinct mammals the thylacoleo had the strongest bite. At 220 pounds its bite is comparable to that of a 550 pound lion. It also had strong forelimbs with retractable claws. Its strong limbs, claws, and bite show that it may have been able to climb trees. Fossils have been found at many different sites in Australia.

       

        The thylacine had a very unique way of killing prey, along with fast digestion. They would kill their prey then chew out the stomach and head usually leaving most of the rest.  Their average diet consisted of small kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, echidnas, and other small mammals and birds.

 

        They lived in Australia and New Guinea. The thylacine usually lived in a small pack or on its own. The pack consisted of the mother occasionally the father for a short period of time, and the young.

 

        The thylacine is better known as the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf. The name thylacine derived from its scientific name thylacinus cynocephalus, meaning pouched dog with a wolf’s head. Scientist  have estimated that the first thylacine came about 4,000 years ago. On an expedition in the 1900’s a full thylacine skeleton was found estimated at being that old.

 

        There are scientists that would like to clone the thylacine. The DNA has been damaged in such a way though, that it is virtually impossible. In order to clone it the DNA would be injected into a Tasmanian devil, its closest living relative. Unless new DNA is found there will probably never be a cloning experiment done on the thylacine.

       

        Many people believe the thylacine is still alive. That there is a rare few that survived the slaughter and reproduced. There have been multiple expeditions done to see if this were true . So far all have failed. The only proof of its continuing existence are foot prints found in the dirt, similar killings of their prey that have been found, and peoples sightings. There is not enough concrete evidence to prove its existence. So far the thylacine is still extinct.

 

        The thylacine is perhaps one of the most unique creatures and possibly one of the least known. I see many similarities between what wolves are going through and what the thylacine went through. There is a growing hate for wolves and many are uneducated about their lifestyle. The thylacine slaughter was opened to keep cattle and people safe but turned deadly. The wolves are being slaughtered to artificially raise moose, deer, and caribou populations. They are also being killed in places to stop them from killing cattle and out of fright.

Wolves are facing possible extinction just like the thylacine did. 

 

        The extinction of the thylacine caused problems to Australia’s ecosystem. Like all animals in nature they were very important to the balance of things. The thylacines’ prey populations started to rise because the thylacines weren’t there to kill them. Then those animals prey started to decrease because they were so many eating them. It created a long chain of events that took a long time to straighten out.

 

        On September 7th 1936 the last known living thylacine died. His name was Benjamin and he lived for twelve years in captivity at the Hobart zoo before he died. No one really mourned the death of this magnificent creature. It died never to be remembered for is unique lifestyle but to be remembered as a nuisance. That’s why I wrote this article, so that the thylacinus cynocephalus would be remembered for what it was.

 

        If you would like to learn more about the thylacine or even want to see videos of it go to www.naturalworlds.org. It not only has information on the thylacine but on the thylacoleo, wolves, and other creatures. This website will provide much more information and even visuals. If my article has made you interested check out the website, you’ll enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

 



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