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What Is a Tasmanian Tiger?

The Tasmanian tiger was distantly related to the koala.
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  • Written By: David Sandoval
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2014
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A Tasmanian tiger is an extinct mammal was native to Australia and New Guinea. It was not a tiger but was instead a dog-like marsupial that was closely related to the banded anteater and distantly related to the koala and the kangaroo. The last known Tasmanian tiger died in captivity in 1936, and the animal was declared extinct in 1986. Tasmanian tigers are believed to have lived on the Australian island of Tasmania for thousands of years before their extinction.

This animal resembled a canine, which is why it was sometimes called a Tasmanian wolf. It stood about 2 feet (61 cm) tall at the shoulders and measured about 6 feet (1.83 m) from nose to tail. A Tasmanian tiger had short fur and stripes running across its back. Unlike a canine, it had a long, stiff tail. It was rarely observed to move quickly, and even when it did, the stiff tail made it difficult for the Tasmanian tiger to run.

Tasmanian tigers were hunted because of their perceived predation of sheep and chickens. European settlers placed bounties on the animals in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A disease epidemic hit the Tasmanian tiger population during the early 1900s. Between disease and large-scale hunting, the animal is believed to have been brought to extinction by 1936.

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Despite their seemingly aggressive name, Tasmanian tigers were observed to be generally shy and would avoid contact with humans. Captured Tasmanian tigers often gave up without a fight. Some reportedly even died suddenly, as if from shock.

Despite their shy nature around humans, Tasmanian tigers were carnivorous marsupials. They would rely on stamina and their good sense of smell to hunt their prey. Tasmanian tigers would hunt their prey until the prey became exhausted. These animals were nocturnal, which means that they hunted and fed at night. Preserved specimens of this animal's brain also suggest that it had well-developed sight and hearing in addition to a keen sense of smell.

Tasmanian tigers appear in rock paintings that were made by aborigines. Rock paintings dating to 1000 B. C. depicted Tasmanian tigers. European settlers first spotted these animals when they were native to only Tasmania. Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer for whom the island of Tasmania is named, recorded in 1642 that he had seen footprints of wild beasts “with claws like a tiger.” Other European explorers of that time period also reported seeing the animal, but the Tasmanian tiger wasn’t classified by scientists until 1808.

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