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Thylacines (Family Thylacinidae)

The Thylacinidae is an extinct family of diverse small to medium-sized, carnivorous, dog-like marsupials from the order Dasyuromorphia. They had long snouts with three premolars per jaw. The molars were specialized for carnivory; the cusps and crests are reduced and/or elongated to form cutting blades. Over 10 species are known from northern and central Australia. They ranged in size from those the size of a quoll to species of Thylacinus larger than T. cynocephalus. They were generally similar to one another, differing mainly in their dentitions, which may reflect differences in diet. The skulls are anatomically conservative and changed little over time. Early thylacines shared many features with quolls and the Tasmanian Devil, but even the oldest thylacines show dental specializations towards greater carnivory. Thylacines had tiny, hairless young that developed to maturity in a pouch after birth. Most species probably hunted at night or during the early morning hours. They were top predators within their size range and were probably not swift runners amd may have relied on persistence and stamina. The traditional view is that thylacines were descended from a dasyurid ancestor perhaps during the Oligocene (1). An alternative view is that thylacinids were the older and more 'primitive' group and that dasyurids were a newer and more specialized group (2). Thylacines represent an ancient Australian marsupial lineage, sharing many features in common with basal marsupials such as opossums. Thylacines were considered to be most closely related to the borhyaenids, an extinct South American predatory marsupial lineage, as both groups have similar dental morphology and a reduced or absent epipubic bone. Studies of marsupial tarsal (ankle) bones and molecular analyses confirmed that the thylacine is most closely related to the Australian marsupial carnivore family Dasyuridae. The thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) was the only species to survive into modern times, which officially became extinct in 1936, although some people claim that it still survives. All other thylacinids all lived in prehistoric times in Australia and were the main Australian mammalian predators of the Miocene.

The species are as follows:

†Badjcinus turnbulli (Early Oligocene)

†Maximucinus muirheadae (Middle Miocene)

†Muribacinus gadiyuli (Middle Miocene)

†Mutpuracinus archiboldi (Middle Miocene)

†Ngamalacinus timmulvaneyi (Lower Miocene)

†Nimbacinus dicksoni (Late Oligocene-Lower Miocene)

†Nimbacinus richi (Middle Miocene)

Thylacine (†Thylacinus cynocephalus) (Early Pliocene - 1936)

†Thylacinus macknessi (Upper Oligocene-Lower Miocene)

†Thylacinus megiriani (Upper Miocene)

†Thylacinus potens (Lower Miocene)

†Thylacinus rostralis

†Tjarrpecinus rothi (Upper Miocene)

†Wabulacinus ridei (Upper Oligocene — Lower Miocene)

Reference 3 shows a cladogram.


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