General Description

The thylacine was a marsupial carnivore commonly referred to as the Tasmanian tiger, due to its striped lower back. The body was covered in short, light brown fur, with 15-20 darker brown stripes covering the back and hindquarters, extending down the tail. Fused vertebrae lead to a stiffened tail with restricted movements. The ears were erect and rounded. The thylacine had an unusually large gape, and was able to open its jaws up to 80° wide. Inside its prominent jaws were large canine teeth and shearing molars. Adults stood 60cm high at the shoulder, and were up to 180cm long, including the tail.


As a result of convergent evolution, the marsupial thylacine had a superficial resemblance to placental dogs. Fossils show that some mainland thylacines were significantly smaller than their more recent Tasmanian individuals. Males were larger than females in both populations. The pouch of the female thylacine opened at the rear of the body and contained four teats.

The thylacine was widespread throughout Australia and New Guinea from about 4 million years ago. First Peoples artists illustrated thylacines in rock art around northern Australia, and mummified carcasses have been found in Western Australian caves. The thylacine lived on mainland Australia until as recently as 3000 years ago, after which time it is only known from Tasmania. Tasmanian thylacines survived into the twentieth century, and were commonly found on midland plains and along the north and east coasts. European settlers perceived the thylacine to be a threat to livestock, and it was hunted unsustainably for profit. Government bounties and an unmanaged zoological trade accelerated its extinction. The last known thylacine died in Hobart Zoo in 1936, just two months after being declared a protected species.


Formerly mainland Australia and New Guinea, later restricted to Tasmania. Now extinct.


The thylacine occupied many terrestrial habitats, with a preference for open eucalypt forests. It reportedly avoided dense rainforests.

More Information