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Thylacine facts for kids

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Conservation status
Scientific classification
T. cynocephalus
Binomial name
Thylacinus cynocephalus
(Harris, 1808)

Thylacine was a carnivorous (mainly meat eating) marsupial animal. The Thylacine was also known as a Tasmanian Tiger, a Tasmanian wolf and a Tasmanian hyena

The extinction of the thylacine

Thylacines were common across Australia. Fossil remains have been found in Queensland, paintings have been found in Western Australia, and a mummified body was found in cave on the Nullabor Plain in South Australia. The body was dated as being 4,650 years old. The thylacine began to disappear from the Australian mainland about 5,000 years ago. This is about the same time as the arrival in Australia of the dingo. Because of rising sea levels 10,000 years ago, Tasmania was separated from the Australian mainland by Bass Strait which the dingo never crossed. By the time Europeans came to Australia in 1788, the Thylacine was only living in Tasmania.

Sailors on Abel Tasman's ship in November 1642 reported seeing "tygr" footprints. The French explorer, Antoine Bruni d'Entrecasteaux, found a thylacine jaw bone in 1792. On May 13 May, 1792, he made the first confirmed sighting, which was described as being the size of a large dog, streaked with black. In 1805, Lieutenant Governor Paterson sent a description of a thylacine to Sydney. He said the animal was rare and uncommon.

Thylacines were hunted because farmers said they were killing sheep. The Tasmanian government gave money to farmers for each thylacine they killed. The last thylacine shot and killed was at Mawbanna, Tasmania, on 13 May, 1930, by farmer Wilfred Batty. The government brought in laws to protect them a few months before the last one died. They are now extinct, which means there are no thylacines left alive anywhere in the world.

Thyalcine in Hobart zoo, 1933


The Thylacine was about 1.8 metres (71 inches) long and its tail was up to 53 cms (21 inches) long. It would have been about 58 centimetres (23 inches) tall and could be up to 30 kilograms (66 pounds) in weight. It was grey and brown in colour with 16 black or brown stripes on its back. It had the same shape as a dog, but the back, rump and tail were more like a kangaroo. Its tail was quite stiff. It had very short legs. It had teeth like a dog, but with more incisor teeth. It was able to open its mouth very wide, to about 120 degrees. Only snakes open their jaws as widely. It also had a crescent shaped bag, opening to the back, to carry its young.

The thylacine was a nocturnal (night) hunting animal. They ate wallabies, rats, birds, echidnas, rabbits and sheep.

The thylacines were marsupials, which means the female carried the babies in a pouch. The pouch opened to the rear.


Specimen in the Oslo museum, showing colouration

The Australian Museum in Sydney began a cloning project in 1999. The team led by evolutionary biologist Mike Archer wanted to use genetic material from specimens taken and preserved in the early 20th century to clone new individuals and restore the species from extinction. Several molecular biologists have dismissed the project as a public relations stunt.

In late 2002, the researchers had some success as they were able to extract replicable DNA from the specimens. On 15 February 2005, the museum announced that it was stopping the project after tests showed the DNA taken from the specimens was unsuitable for use. In May 2005, Archer, the University of New South Wales Dean of Science at the time, former director of the Australian Museum, announced that the project was being restarted by a group of interested universities and a research institute.

In 2008, researchers Andrew J. Pask and Marilyn B. Renfree from the University of Melbourne and Richard R. Behringer from the University of Texas at Austin reported that they managed to restore functionality of a gene Col2A1 enhancer obtained from 100-year-old ethanol-fixed thylacine tissues from museum collections. The genetic material was found working in transgenic mice. Their results were published in the journal Genome Research in 2009.

In August 2022, it was announced that the University of Melbourne will partner with Texas-based biotechnology company Colossal Biosciences to attempt to re-create the thylacine and return it to Tasmania. The university had recently sequenced the genome of a juvenile thylacine specimen and is establishing a thylacine genetic restoration laboratory.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Thylacinus cynocephalus para niños

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