ThylacinidaeTasmanian wolf and thylacine

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A single genus and species makes up this family of marsupials. The marsupial wolf, now probably extinct, was once widespread in Australia and New Guinea. Its last stronghold was in Tasmania. The last known individual died in captivity in 1936.

Thylacines were clearly related to the dasyuromorphs, based based on morphological and molecular evidence. They were polyprotodont, with dental formula 4/3, 1/1, 3/3, 4/4 = 46; and they were not syndactylous. They differ from other dasyuroids most conspicuously in their size and body form; these large, wolflike animals reached a weight of 35 kg and had long, canid-like limbs with digitigrade posture.

Competition from dingos and domestic dogs, hunting by European sheep ranchers, and an epidemic of distemper have all been blamed for the decline of the thylacine.

Technical characters

Literature and references cited

Feldhamer, G. A., L. C. Drickamer, S. H. Vessey, and J. F. Merritt. 1999. Mammalogy. Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. WCB McGraw-Hill, Boston. xii+563pp.

Marshall, L. G. 1984. Monotremes and marsupials. Pp 59-115 in Anderson, S. and J. Knox Jones, eds, Orders and Families of Recent Mammals of the World. John Wiley and Sons, NY. xii+686 pp.

Strahan, R. (ed.). 1995. Mammals of Australia. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 756 pp.

Vaughan, T. A. 1986. Mammalogy. Third Edition. Saunders College Publishing, Fort Worth. vi+576 pp.

Vaughan, T. A., J. M. Ryan, N. J. Czaplewski. 2000. Mammalogy. Fourth Edition. Saunders College Publishing, Philadelphia. vii+565pp.

Contributors

Phil Myers (author), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate