Today is National Threatened Species Day in Australia commemorating Benjamin, the last of the thylacine species commonly known as the Tasmanian Tiger that died today in 1936. Now WE know em

Thylacines in Washington D.C., 1906

Thylacines in Washington D.C., 1906

The thylacine (Greek for “dog headed pouched one”) was more commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger because of its striped back.

Native to Australia, they were the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times.

The thylacine had become extremely rare on the Australian mainland before European settlement of the continent, but had prospered on the island of Tasmania along with several other endemic species, including the Tasmanian devil.

Intensive hunting encouraged by bounties is generally blamed for their rapid extinction.

Like the tigers and wolves of the Northern Hemisphere, from which it obtained two of its common names, the thylacine was an apex predator.

As a marsupial, it was not closely related to these placental mammals, but because of convergent evolution it displayed the same general form and adaptations.

Their closest living relative was thought to have been either the Tasmanian devil or numbat.

The thylacine was one of only two marsupials to have a pouch in both sexes (the other being the water opossum).

One of only two known photos of a thylacine with a distended pouch, bearing young. Adelaide Zoo, 1889

One of only two known photos of a thylacine with a distended pouch, bearing young. Adelaide Zoo, 1889

The male thylacine had a pouch that acted as a protective sheath, covering the male’s external reproductive organs while he ran through thick brush.

They have been described as a formidable predator because of their ability to survive and hunt prey in extremely sparsely populated areas.

Thylacine family at Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart, 1910

Thylacine family at Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart, 1910

The last known Thylacine to be killed in the wild was shot in 1930 by Wilf Batty, a farmer from Mawbanna, in the northeast of the state. The animal, believed to have been a male, had been seen around Batty’s house for several weeks.

Wilf Batty with the last thylacine that was killed in the wild

Wilf Batty with the last thylacine that was killed in the wild

“Benjamin”

The last surviving member of the thylacine species, later referred to as “Benjamin” (photographic evidence suggests it was actually female), was captured in 1933 by Elias Churchill and sent to the Hobart Zoo in Tasmania where it lived for three years.

Benjamin, the last known thylacine photographed at Beaumaris Zoo in 1933.

Benjamin, the last known thylacine photographed
in 1933.

Naturalist David Fleay also shot the last known video of “Benjamin.”

Fleay’s 62 seconds of black-and-white footage showed it pacing backwards and forwards in its enclosure.

Then Benjamin died alone in its cage on September 7, 1936 making the species officially extinct.

It is believed to have died as the result of neglect; locked out of its sheltered sleeping quarters, it was exposed to a rare occurrence of extreme Tasmanian weather: extreme heat during the day and freezing temperatures at night.

National Threatened Species Day has been held annually since 1996 on September 7th in Australia, to commemorate the death of this last officially recorded thylacine.

Despite its official classification as extinct, sightings of Tasmanian tiger’s are still reported, though none have been conclusively proven.

Now WE know em

 

 

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