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What Is a Tasmanian Tiger?

David Sandoval
David Sandoval

A Tasmanian tiger is an extinct mammal was native to Australia and New Guinea. It was not a tiger but was instead a dog-like marsupial that was closely related to the banded anteater and distantly related to the koala and the kangaroo. The last known Tasmanian tiger died in captivity in 1936, and the animal was declared extinct in 1986. Tasmanian tigers are believed to have lived on the Australian island of Tasmania for thousands of years before their extinction.

This animal resembled a canine, which is why it was sometimes called a Tasmanian wolf. It stood about 2 feet (61 cm) tall at the shoulders and measured about 6 feet (1.83 m) from nose to tail. A Tasmanian tiger had short fur and stripes running across its back. Unlike a canine, it had a long, stiff tail. It was rarely observed to move quickly, and even when it did, the stiff tail made it difficult for the Tasmanian tiger to run.

It is believed that the last Tasmanian tiger died in captivity in 1936.
It is believed that the last Tasmanian tiger died in captivity in 1936.

Tasmanian tigers were hunted because of their perceived predation of sheep and chickens. European settlers placed bounties on the animals in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A disease epidemic hit the Tasmanian tiger population during the early 1900s. Between disease and large-scale hunting, the animal is believed to have been brought to extinction by 1936.

Despite their seemingly aggressive name, Tasmanian tigers were observed to be generally shy and would avoid contact with humans. Captured Tasmanian tigers often gave up without a fight. Some reportedly even died suddenly, as if from shock.

The Tasmanian tiger was distantly related to the koala.
The Tasmanian tiger was distantly related to the koala.

Despite their shy nature around humans, Tasmanian tigers were carnivorous marsupials. They would rely on stamina and their good sense of smell to hunt their prey. Tasmanian tigers would hunt their prey until the prey became exhausted. These animals were nocturnal, which means that they hunted and fed at night. Preserved specimens of this animal's brain also suggest that it had well-developed sight and hearing in addition to a keen sense of smell.

Tasmania is an island south of Australia.
Tasmania is an island south of Australia.

Tasmanian tigers appear in rock paintings that were made by aborigines. Rock paintings dating to 1000 B. C. depicted Tasmanian tigers. European settlers first spotted these animals when they were native to only Tasmania. Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer for whom the island of Tasmania is named, recorded in 1642 that he had seen footprints of wild beasts “with claws like a tiger.” Other European explorers of that time period also reported seeing the animal, but the Tasmanian tiger wasn’t classified by scientists until 1808.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Tasmanian Tiger?

The Tasmanian Tiger, also known as the thylacine, was a carnivorous marsupial native to Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. It resembled a large dog with a stiff tail, dark stripes across its back and rump, and a pouch for rearing its young, similar to kangaroos. Despite its common name, it was not related to tigers or other felines.

When did the Tasmanian Tiger go extinct?

The Tasmanian Tiger is thought to have become extinct in the 20th century. The last known individual died in captivity in the Hobart Zoo in Tasmania on September 7, 1936. Habitat destruction, disease, and extensive hunting are believed to have contributed to its extinction.

Why was the Tasmanian Tiger important to the ecosystem?

As an apex predator in its ecosystem, the Tasmanian Tiger played a crucial role in controlling the populations of other animals, maintaining a healthy balance within its habitat. Its loss likely had significant ripple effects on the ecological dynamics of the regions where it once lived.

What did the Tasmanian Tiger eat?

The Tasmanian Tiger was a carnivore that primarily hunted at night (nocturnal). Its diet consisted of kangaroos, wallabies, birds, and small animals. Its slender build and powerful jaws were adapted for catching and consuming prey, making it an effective predator.

Are there any efforts to bring back the Tasmanian Tiger?

There have been discussions and speculative projects about using genetic technology to bring back the Tasmanian Tiger, often referred to as de-extinction. However, these projects face significant scientific, ethical, and ecological challenges and are currently not close to resurrecting the species.

How did the Tasmanian Tiger reproduce?

The Tasmanian Tiger was a marsupial, which means that its young were born at a very early stage of development and then continued to grow in the mother's pouch. Typically, thylacines gave birth to up to four cubs, which would stay in the pouch for several months before emerging to become more independent.

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    • It is believed that the last Tasmanian tiger died in captivity in 1936.
      It is believed that the last Tasmanian tiger died in captivity in 1936.
    • The Tasmanian tiger was distantly related to the koala.
      By: hotshotsworldwide
      The Tasmanian tiger was distantly related to the koala.
    • Tasmania is an island south of Australia.
      By: lesniewski
      Tasmania is an island south of Australia.