Lesson

The Tasmanian Tiger


So, today’s fact is about the thylacine and this is one of Australia’s coolest marsupials, at least in my opinion. Okay? The thylacine. So, I hope you guys know what the thylacine is. If you haven’t, if you haven’t heard about it, I recommend searching in Google, ‘thylacine’, and you will see a really cool animal. And thylacine is spelt T-H-Y-L-A-C-I-N-A. Okay? The thylacine.

So, the scientific name for the thylacine was Thylacinus cynocephalus also known as the Tasmanian Tiger or the Tasmanian Wolf, and it was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times in Australia. It was known as the Tasmanian Tiger, because of the vertical black stripes that it had on its lower back.

Although, when Europeans arrived Down Under, in Australia, in the late 1700s, unfortunately, the thylacine was only native to Tasmania, that state that is the island in the bottom south east of Australia. It was once found across continental Australia, though, and as well, it was also found in New Guinea.

Surviving evidence suggests that the species was relatively shy and elusive and it was a nocturnal predator, meaning it was active at night time. And it was about the same size and build of a medium-to-large-size dog. So, maybe a small Labrador if you can imagine a small black Labrador. I have one of those, or at least my family have one of them. (I) love Labradors.

Despite its close resemblance to a dog, though, it was not a placental mammal like dogs and cats. Instead, it was actually a marsupial, which means it has a pouch and it is a lot more closely related to kangaroos and koalas and wallabies than it is to say dogs and cats and bears. As a result of being a marsupial, as I just said, it had an abdominal pouch, and this is where the females would keep their young whilst they were raising them from the vulnerable early months of their lives. And they’re actually one of the very few marsupials where the males have a pouch as well.

Like tigers and wolves from the northern hemisphere, the thylacine, in the Southern Hemisphere, in Australia, was an apex predator, and it’s a great example of convergent evolution where two unrelated species have evolved to occupy a similar niche. So, they have a similar ecological niche, that’s the biological term, and as a result they display the same general form and adaptation. So, when you see a thylacine and a dog put next to one another in a picture, they look similar even though they’re not related, and it’s because they eat the same things, they hunted the same way, they occupied the same niche in nature.

Its closest relative is thought to be the Tasmanian Devil, which we still have today, or the numbat.

The thylacine has been described as a formidable predator because of its ability to survive and hunt prey in extremely sparsely-populated areas.

It was the last extant member of its family, Thylacinadae, and became extinct only in the 20th century, in the early 1930s. Unfortunately, farmers at the time feared their livestock was threatened by the thylacine, that the thylacine was hunting their sheep or their cows or their goats. And thus, intensive hunting was encouraged by bounties from the government and this is generally blamed for the species extinction. However, other contributing factors may have been disease, the introduction of dogs, as well as human encroachment into their habitat.

Although, it is officially classified as extinct, sightings are still reported today, even though none of these have ever been conclusively proven, and that was that video at the start of today’s episode.

Despite the export of breeding pairs of thylacines, these were unsuccessful, and the last thylacine outside Australia died at London’s zoo in 1931. The good thing is you can still see videos of this beautiful animal alive roaming around, albeit, in a zoo cell, on YouTube. So, if you want to check it out, type in ‘thylacine’ into YouTube and you’ll get to see these.


Vocabulary:

ST – Something

SO – Someone

SW – Somewhere

A bounty – a sum paid for killing or capturing a person or animal
A breeding pair – a pair of animals that are able to breed together to have offspring
A contributing factor – ST that helps cause a result
A Labrador – a retriever of a breed that most typically has black or yellow coats, widely used as a gun dog or as a guide for a blind person
A marsupial – a mammal of an order whose members are born incompletely developed and are typically carried and suckled in a pouch on the mother’s belly. Marsupials are found chiefly in Australia and New Guinea, and also in America.
A nocturnal predator – an animal that hunts other animals for food at night time
A numbat – a small termite-eating Australian marsupial with a black-and-white striped back and a bushy tail
A placental mammal – any member of the mammalian group characterised by the presence of a placenta, which facilitates exchange of nutrients and wastes between the blood of the mother and that of the foetus.
A pouch – a pocket-like abdominal receptacle in which marsupials carry their young during lactation.
A sparsely-populated area – a region that has very few residents, and whom are spread out
A stripe – a long, narrow band or strip different in colour or texture from the surface on either side of it
A Tasmanian Devil – a heavily built marsupial with a large head, powerful jaws, and mainly black fur, found only in Tasmania. It is slow-moving and aggressive, feeding mainly on carrion.
A zoo cell – a small room or locked off area in which animals are kept at a zoo
Abdominal – relating to the abdomen, i.e. the stomach area of the body
Albeit – though
An apex predator – a predator at the top of a food chain with no natural predators
Blame ST for ST – feel or declare that SO/ST is responsible for a fault or wrong
Carnivorous – (of an animal) eating other animals
Classify ST as ST – arrange ST in classes or categories according to shared qualities or characteristics
Conclusively – in a decisive way that has the effect of proving a case
Continental Australia – the regions of Australia that are part of the mainland, i.e. the continent, excluding Tasmania and New Guinea.
Convergent evolution – the process whereby organisms not closely related independently evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments or ecological niches
Coolest – best; most awesome
Down Under – Australia
Elusive – difficult to find, catch, or achieve
Encourage ST – persuade (someone) to do or continue to do something by giving support and advice.
Evolve – develop gradually
Extinction – the state or process of being or becoming extinct, i.e. all of members of a species dying out
Fear ST – be afraid of ST
Hear about ST – be aware of the existence of ST
Human encroachment – enter by gradual steps or by stealth into ST, e.g. land or bush
In my opinion – according to what I think
Intensive – concentrated on a single subject or into a short time; very thorough or vigorous
Livestock – farm animals regarded as an asset
Modern times – the circumstances and ideas of the present age
Native to SW – naturally found SW
Occupy – fill or take up (a space or time)
Prey – an animal that is hunted and killed for food by another animal
Raise ST – bring a child or animal up from a young age
Reported – give a spoken or written account of something that one has observed, heard, done, or investigated.
Resemblance to ST – visual similarity to ST
Roam around (SW) – wander or travel around (SW)
Shy – nervous or timid in the company of others
Threaten ST – cause SO or ST to be vulnerable or at risk, endanger
Unsuccessful – not successful
Vulnerable – at risk