Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus)
Distribution: Prehistorically, Australia and New Guinea; Historically, Tasmania.
Last Record: Night of 7 September 1936.
The thylacine was the largest marsupial predator to have survived into historic times. Before the introduction of the dingo to mainland Australia around four thousand years ago it was widespread on the mainland and in New Guinea. When first encountered by Europeans in the early nineteenth century it was restricted to the island of Tasmania. There, however, it occurred in a variety of habitats, but not apparently the dense rainforests of the southwest.
Thylacines were rather wolf-like in shape, males reaching around thirty-five and females twenty-five kilograms in weight. They seem to have hunted singly, in pairs and in family groups (male, female and one to three young), pursuing wallabies and other prey by scent, eventually running them to exhaustion or into ambush.
Lairs were often located among rocks, and young stayed with the female until they were well grown and able to hunt independently. The Tasmanian Aborigines occasionally hunted them, but would build a curious shelter over the bones, believing that if they were rained upon then very bad weather would follow.