Hostname: page-component-cd4964975-8cclj Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-30T02:37:34.778Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Reconstruction of the predatory behaviour of the extinct marsupial thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 1998

Menna E. Jones
Department of Zoology, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia
D. Michael Stoddart
Department of Zoology, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia Present address: Office of the Vice-Chancellor, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.
Get access


The European colonists of Tasmania named the thylacine Thylacinus cynocephalus a ‘marsupial wolf’ or the ‘Tasmanian tiger’ or ‘hyena’, in reference to its resemblance to large canids and the bold stripes on its rump. The largest marsupial carnivore in historic times, it was persecuted for alleged sheep killing and became extinct before its ecology was documented. We have reconstructed the likely prey size and the hunting and killing methods of the thylacine by comparing canine tooth strength and limb bone length ratios with those of extant marsupial and placental carnivores. The thylacine was probably a pounce–pursuit predator of fairly open habitats, which killed medium-sized prey (1–5 kg) that were small relative to its body size (15–30 kg), with a crushing, penetrating bite. The trophic niche of the thylacine was similar to that of smaller canids such as the coyote Canis latrans (rather than the wolf C. lupus), but ecomorphological convergence of the thylacine with canids was superficial. Phylogenetic constraint has resulted in unique patterns of tooth eruption, molar tooth and jaw geometry, calcaneum architecture, and perhaps FMT/running speed relationships in the Dasyuroidea.

Research Article
© 1998 The Zoological Society of London

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)