Last updated

Temporal range: Late Oligocene - Holocene 25–0  Ma
Non-Thylacinus thylacinids, including Nimbacinus (top right)
Scientific classification OOjs UI icon edit-ltr.svg
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Marsupialia
Order: Dasyuromorphia
Family: Thylacinidae
C.L. Bonaparte, 1838

All extinct, see text

Thylacinidae is an extinct family of carnivorous marsupials from the order Dasyuromorphia. The only species to survive into modern times was the thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), which became extinct in 1936.


The consensus of authors prior to 1982 was that the thylacinid family were related to the Borhyaenidae, a group of South American predators, also extinct, that exhibited many similar characteristics of dentition. A review published in 1982 compared the skeletal structure of these groups, concluding the tarsal bones show greater affinity with the dasyurmorphs, strongly supporting the later theory that any dental similarities emerged independently via convergent evolution. [1] Thylacinidae is currently considered to be the most basal and earliest diverging member of Dasyuromorpha, estimated to have split from other dasyuromorphs around 42-36 million years ago. [2]

The earliest thylacinid, Badjcinus from the Late Oligocene around 25 million years ago, is estimated to have been around 1.7 to 3.1 kilograms (3.7 to 6.8 lb) in weight, comparable to a living tiger quoll. Early thylacinids were unspecialised faunivores. The family exhibited its greatest diversity during the Miocene epoch, when there were several separate lineages of contemporaneous thylacinids, most of which were considerably smaller than the living thylacine. The genus Thylacinus emerged during the Early Miocene around 16 million years ago, and after the beginning of the Pliocene was the only living thylacinid genus. Over time members of the genus Thylacinus showed an increase in body and increased adaptation to hypercarnivory. [2]


Family Thylacinidae, extinct

Cladogram after Rovinsky et al. (2019): [2]


Badjcinus turnbulli

Nimbacinus dicksoni

Muribacinus gadiyuli

Ngamalacinus timmulvaneyi

Tyarrpecinus rothi

Wabulacinus ridei


Thylacinus macknessi

Thylacinus potens

Thylacinus megiriani

Thylacinus yorkellus

Thylacinus cynocephalus

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thylacine</span> Extinct carnivorous marsupial from Australasia

The thylacine, also commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf, is an extinct carnivorous marsupial that was native to the Australian mainland and the islands of Tasmania and New Guinea. The thylacine died out on New Guinea and mainland Australia around 3,600–3,200 years ago, prior to the arrival of Europeans, possibly because of the introduction of the dingo, whose earliest record dates to around the same time, but which never reached Tasmania. Prior to European settlement, around 5,000 remained in the wild on Tasmania. Beginning in the nineteenth century, they were perceived as a threat to the livestock of farmers and bounty hunting was introduced. The last known of its species died in 1936 at Hobart Zoo in Tasmania. The thylacine is widespread in popular culture and is a cultural icon in Australia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Peramelemorphia</span> Order of mammals

The order Peramelemorphia includes the bandicoots and bilbies. All members of the order are endemic to Australia-New Guinea and most have the characteristic bandicoot shape: a plump, arch-backed body with a long, delicately tapering snout, very large upright ears, relatively long, thin legs, and a thin tail. Their size varies from about 140 grams up to 4 kilograms, but most species are about one kilogram.

<i>Thylacinus</i> Extinct genus of marsupials

Thylacinus is a genus of extinct carnivorous marsupials in the family Thylacinidae. The only recent member was the thylacine, commonly also known as the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf. The last known Tasmanian tiger was in the Beaumaris Zoo in Tasmania, eventually passing away in 1936. The earliest known member of the genus, Thylacinus macknessi appeared during the Early Miocene, around 16 million years ago, and was smaller than the modern thylacine, with a body mass of about 6.7–9.0 kilograms (14.8–19.8 lb). Thylacinus represented the only extant genus of the family after the beginning of the Pliocene around 5 million years ago. Over time members of the genus saw an increase in body mass and a greater adaption to hypercarnivory in their dental morphology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Riversleigh World Heritage Area</span> UNESCO World Heritage Site in Queensland, Australia

Riversleigh World Heritage Area is Australia's most famous fossil location, recognised for the series of well preserved fossils deposited from the Late Oligocene to more recent geological periods. The fossiliferous limestone system is located near the Gregory River in the north-west of Queensland, an environment that was once a very wet rainforest that became more arid as the Gondwanan land masses separated and the Australian continent moved north. The approximately 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi) area has fossil remains of ancient mammals, birds, and reptiles of the Oligocene and Miocene ages, many of which were discovered and are only known from the Riversleigh area; the species that have occurred there are known as the Riversleigh fauna.

<i>Thylacinus potens</i> Extinct species of marsupial

Thylacinus potens was the largest species of the family Thylacinidae, originally known from a single poorly preserved fossil discovered by Michael O. Woodburne in 1967 in a Late Miocene locality near Alice Springs, Northern Territory. It preceded the most recent species of thylacine by 4–6 million years, and was 5% bigger, was more robust and had a shorter, broader skull. Its size is estimated to be similar to that of a grey wolf; the head and body together were around 5 feet long, and its teeth were less adapted for shearing compared to those of the now-extinct thylacine.

Badjcinus turnbulli is an extinct thylacinid marsupial.

<i>Wakaleo</i> Extinct genus of marsupials

Wakaleo is an extinct genus of medium-sized thylacoleonids that lived in Australia in the Late Oligocene and Miocene Epochs. Although much smaller than its close relative, the marsupial lion, Wakaleo would have been a successful hunter. It had teeth specially designed for cutting and stabbing. The genus is from an extinct family of Vombatiformes, so it is distantly related to the herbivorous wombats.


The genus Nimbacinus contains two species of carnivorous, quadrupedal marsupials in Australia both of which are extinct:

Thylacinus macknessi lived during the early Miocene and is the oldest known member of the genus Thylacinus. It is named after Brian Mackness, a supporter of Australian vertebrate paleontology.

<i>Thylacinus megiriani</i> Extinct species of marsupial

Thylacinus megiriani lived during the late Miocene, 8 million years ago; the area T. megiriani inhabited in the Northern Territory was covered in forest with a permanent supply of water.

Maximucinus muirheadae is the largest known thylacinid species that lived in Queensland, Australia from the late Oligocene to the middle Miocene. The species was a quadrupedal marsupial predator, that in appearance looked similar to a dog with a long snout. Its molar teeth were specialized for carnivory; the cups and crest were reduced or elongated to give the molars a cutting blade. It is estimated to have weighed about 18 kilograms.

Muribacinus gadiyuli lived during the middle Miocene in Riversleigh. The species name comes from Wanyi aboriginal word for "little", in reference to its considerably small size compared to the modern thylacine and was similar in size to a fox-terrier dog, and "father" for the ancestral characteristics of the fossilised teeth.

Mutpuracinus archibaldi is an extinct carnivorous, quadrupedal marsupial that lived during the middle Miocene and is the smallest known thylacinid at approximately 1.1 kilograms, the size of a quoll, though, more closely related to the recently extinct thylacine.

Ngamalacinus timmulvaneyi lived during the early Miocene and has been found in Riversleigh.

Tyarrpecinus rothi is an extinct thylacinid marsupial that lived during the late Miocene and has been found at the Alcoota scientific reserve in the Northern Territory. The specific name honors Karl Roth for his contributions to the natural history of central Australia.

Wabulacinus ridei lived during the early Miocene in Riversleigh. It is named after David Ride, who made the first revision of thylacinid fossils. The material was found in system C of the Camel Spurtum assembledge.

The Macropodidae are an extant family of marsupial with the distinction of the ability to move bipedally on the hind legs, sometimes by jumping, as well as quadrupedally. They are herbivores, but some fossil genera like Ekaltadeta are hypothesised to have been carnivores. The taxonomic affiliations within the family and with other groups of marsupials is still in flux.

Riversleigh fauna is the collective term for any species of animal identified in fossil sites located in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area.

Thylacinus yorkellus is a fossil species of carnivorous marsupial, a sister species of the recently extinct Thylacinus cynocephalus, the Tasmanian tiger, both of which existed on mainland Australia.

William D. Turnbull (1922-2011) was an American paleontologist associated with the Chicago Field Museum. He published over 100 papers on mammals, continuing after his retirement as the museum's curator of mammals. He searched in Australia for evidence of recently extinct species, and made frequent expeditions to sites at the Washakie Formation in southwest Wyoming. His studies are considered significant contributions to the paleontology and biogeography of dinosaurs and Eocene mammals.


  1. Long, J.A.; Archer, M. (2002). Prehistoric Mammals of Australia and New Guinea: One Hundred Million Years of Evolution. UNSW Press. p. 60. ISBN   9780868404356.
  2. 1 2 3 Rovinsky, Douglass S.; Evans, Alistair R.; Adams, Justin W. (2019-09-02). "The pre-Pleistocene fossil thylacinids (Dasyuromorphia: Thylacinidae) and the evolutionary context of the modern thylacine". PeerJ. 7: e7457. doi:10.7717/peerj.7457. ISSN   2167-8359.
  3. Muirhead, Jeanette; Wroe, Stephen (September 1998). "A New Genus and Species, Badjcinus turnbulli (Thylacinidae: Marsupialia), from the Late-Oligocene of Riversleigh, Northern Australia, and an Investigation of Thylacinid Phylogeny". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 18 (3): 612–626. Bibcode:1998JVPal..18..612M. doi:10.1080/02724634.1998.10011088.
  4. Wroe, S. (2001). "Maximucinus muirheadae, gen. et sp. nov. (Thylacinidae: Marsupialia), from the Miocene of Riversleigh, north-western Queensland, with estimates of body weights for fossil thylacinids". Australian Journal of Zoology. 49 (6): 603. doi:10.1071/ZO01044. S2CID   32417772.
  5. Wroe, Stephen (1995). "Muribacinus gadiyuli (Thylacinidae: Marsupialia), a very plesiomorphic thylacinid from the Miocene of Riversleigh, northwestern Queensland, and the problem of paraphyly for the Dasyuridae (Marsupialia)". Journal of Paleontology. 70 (6): 1032–1044. doi:10.1017/S0022336000038737. S2CID   131861751.
  6. 1 2 Murray, P.; Megirian, D. (2000). "Two New Genera and Three New Species of Thylacinidae (Marsupialia) from the Miocene of the Northern Territory, Australia". The Beagle: Occasional Papers of the Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences. 16: 145–162.
  7. 1 2 Muirhead, J. (1997). "Two new early Miocene thylacines from Riversleigh, northwestern Queensland". Memoirs of the Queensland Museum. 41: 367–377.
  8. Muirhead, J.; Archer, M. (1990). "Nimbacinus dicksoni, a plesiomorphic thylacine (Marsupialia: Thylacinidae) from Tertiary deposits of Queensland and the Northern Territory". Memoirs of the Queensland Museum. 28: 203–221.