Friday, January 11, 2013


John Gould's The Mammals of Australia (1845–63)

Tasmanian Tiger.
Odd creature, the marsupial wolf.  The last one was named "Benjamin" and died in the Hobart Zoo in 1936.  Benjamin was most likely female.  They became extinct in mainland Australia in the 19th century but had been extremely rare for centuries.  the last member of the surviving population on the Island of Tasmania was shot in 1930.

This wonderful piece is by Diana Sudyka, who it seems is also a bit obsessed with this creature. And I'm pretty sure will come up here in the future.
   Roughly resembling a medium sized dog with a stiff tale and striped hindquarters, there are a few key differences.  An example of convergent evolution (two unrelated species evolving similar traits to fill a similar niche) that evolved with qualities similar to the canine family.  It is easy to see how early European settlers compared them to a wolf.  They are marsupials, bearing young in a pouch, the same as kangaroos.  They have striped hindquarters, the obvious origin of the flimsy tiger comparison.  They were able to stand on their hind legs and perform a bipedal hop.  The gape of the thylacine's jaws is much wider than most mammal species.
"Benjamin" 1933.

Driven to extinction by human encroachment, the introduction of dogs and the bounty paid for their bodies.  Between 1888 and 1909 over 2000 bounties were paid out, and many more were believed to have been killed.  They were regarded as a pest species, but much of this may have been bad press and misunderstanding.  They were unable to take large prey (livestock) as they had weak jaws and preferred to take much smaller prey.  As early as 1928 there was a movement to preserve the species.

Since the last official sighting of a thylacine in the wild there have been hundreds of unconfirmed sightings.  Extensive searches have produced no evidence.  There have been several rewards offered of over $1 million  each, but the trapping of a thylacine is illegal under the terms of its protection.  There have also been over 15 years of stop and start genome research with the hopes that a population of could be restored through cloning.

The imagery of the Thylacine has been used widely in Tasmania from stamps to coats of arms.  It has been the subject of paintings and art works.  And this wonderful item.

A wooden toy from LAST toys by Alburno.  It is featured with the dodo and the Bai-ji dolphin with the  "the intention of bringing awareness to the extinction of animals that have disappeared or are disappearing due to men's wrong behavior.".  Which is a wonderful idea, but perhaps would make more sense with animals that are endangered as opposed to extinct.  Either way it is beautiful.

This beautifully illustrated image is by Peter Schoutens,  from A Gap in Nature, on the rather heartbreaking subject of extinction. Wonderfully written by Tim Flannery.

For more in depth information and footage please look up the Thylacine Museum.

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