Thylacinus potens

Last updated

Thylacinus potens
Temporal range: Miocene 10–8  Ma
Thylacinus potens.png
Upper jaw
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Marsupialia
Order: Dasyuromorphia
Family: Thylacinidae
Genus: Thylacinus
T. potens
Binomial name
Thylacinus potens
Woodburne, 1967 [1]

Thylacinus potens ("powerful pouched dog") 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, [2] and was 5% bigger, [3] 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. [2]



Restoration Thylacinus Potens.png

The description of the species was published in 1967, the author Michael O. Woodburne distinguishing the new thylacine with the epithet potens for what he interpreted as a "powerful" predator. The evidence for the species emerged from geological and palaeontological research into the fossil fauna of the Alcoota site.


A larger species of Thylacinus , greater in size and weight than the thylacine ( Thylacinus cynocephalus ) and only exceeded by Thylacinus megiriani , the largest of the genus. The animal was similar to a dog in the form of its body and jaws, and probably able to kill prey such as wallabies and other herbivores larger than itself. [4]

More specimens were described by Adam Yates in 2014, also discovered at the Alcoota site, revealing greater variety within the species and revising the weight estimates to greater than 35 kilograms. This material was found in a newly excavated site, named as "Shattered Dreams", that was opened by a backhoe to allow the extraction of specimens. The new T. potens specimens were a left dentary and maxilla which included the previously unknown anterior section of the dentition. The teeth of the new material exhibited a more gracile form than that previously assigned to T. potens, displaying a closer resemblance to T. cynocephalus. [5]

An examination of tooth wear that suggests durophagy, probably bone-cracking behaviour, is interpreted as an evolutionary recent practice, to which the dentition was only partially suited, or a consequence of the ecological circumstances that created the mass assemblage of fossils at the same site. The modern thylacine was not recorded as cracking bones as part of its regular feeding habits, but known as a consumer of carrion, and the individual T. potens may have encountered a mass death during a period of drought in the sub-tropical Alcoota region. The revision of Thylacine potens by Yates in 2014 concluded that the characteristics were closest to those of the thylacine, the most derived characters of the thylacinid phylogeny. [5]

Related Research Articles

Thylacine An extinct species of carnivorous marsupial from Australia

The thylacine, now extinct, is one of the largest known carnivorous marsupials, evolving about 4 million years ago. The last known live animal was captured in 1933 in Tasmania. It is commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger because of its striped lower back, or the Tasmanian wolf because of its canid-like characteristics. It was native to Tasmania, New Guinea, and the Australian mainland.

<i>Obdurodon</i> genus of mammals

Obdurodon is a genus of extinct monotreme. They appeared much like their modern day relative the platypus, except adults retained their molar teeth. Unlike the platypus which forages on the lakebed, Obdurodon may have foraged in the water column or surface.

Peramelemorphia order of mammals

The order Peramelemorphia includes the bandicoots and bilbies; it equates approximately to the mainstream of marsupial omnivores. All members of the order are endemic to the twin land masses of 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, or the weight of a half-grown kitten.

Thylacinidae family of mammals

Thylacinidae is an extinct family of carnivorous, superficially dog-like marsupials from the order Dasyuromorphia. The only species to survive into modern times was the thylacine, which became extinct in 1936.

<i>Thylacinus</i> genus of mammals

Thylacinus is a genus of extinct carnivorous marsupials from the order Dasyuromorphia. The only recent member was the thylacine, commonly also known as the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf, which became extinct in 1936 due to excessive hunting by humans. Other prehistoric species are known from this genus. An unidentified species is known from Pleistocene New Guinea.

Riversleigh World Heritage Area fossil site in 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.

Alcoota paleontological site in the Northern Territory of Australia

The Alcoota Fossil Beds are an important paleontological site in the Northern Territory of Australia located on Alcoota Station in the locality of Anmatjere about 115 kilometres (71 mi) north-east of Alice Springs in the Central Australia region. It is notable for the occurrence of well-preserved, rare, Miocene vertebrate fossils, which provide evidence of the evolution of the Northern Territory’s fauna and climate. The Alcoota Fossil Beds are also significant as a research and teaching site for palaeontology students.

The Bullock Creek Fossil site is one of three known vertebrate fossil sites in the Northern Territory of Australia, along with the Alcoota Fossil Beds on Alcoota Station and the Kangaroo Well site on Deep Well Station. It is located about 550 kilometres (340 mi) south-southeast of Darwin, on Camfield Station in the locality of Victoria River.

Thylacoleonidae family of mammals

Thylacoleonidae is a family of extinct meat-eating marsupials from Australia, referred to as marsupial lions. The best known is Thylacoleo carnifex, also called the marsupial lion. The clade ranged from the Late Oligocene to the Pleistocene, with some species the size of a possum and others as large as a leopard. As a whole, they were largely arboreal, in contrast to the mostly terrestrial dasyuromorphs, monitor lizards and mekosuchines.

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> species of mammal

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 lived from the late Oligocene to middle Miocene and is the largest thylacinid species known to have lived in 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.

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.

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.

Thylacoleo hilli lived during the Pliocene and was half the size of Thylacoleo crassidentatus.

<i>Microleo</i> genus of mammals

Microleo attenboroughi is a very small species of the Thylacoleonidae family from the Early Miocene of Australia, living in the wet forest that dominated Riversleigh about 18 million years ago. The genus Microleo is currently known from a broken palate, two pieces of jaw, containing some teeth and roots that correspond to those found in other species of thylacoleonids. The shape and structure of the blade-like P3 tooth, a premolar, distinguished the species as a new genus. It was found in Early Miocene-aged deposits of the Riversleigh fossil site in Queensland, regarded as one of the most significant palaeontological sites yet discovered, and named for the naturalist David Attenborough in appreciation of his support for its heritage listing. The anatomy of Microleo suggests the genus is basal to all the known thylacoleonids, known as the marsupial lions, although its relative size prompted a discover to describe it as the "feisty" kitten of the family.

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

Joculusium muizoni is a fossil species discovered at the Riversleigh World Heritage Area. Little is known about the animal.

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.


  1. Woodburne, Michael O; Australia. Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics (1967), The Alcoota fauna, Central Australia : an integrated palaeontological and geological study / by Michael O. Woodburne, Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics, p. 20
  2. 1 2 Some Thylacine Relics: Tertiary (page 1)
  3. The Lost Kingdoms of Australia by Stephen Wroe Archived 2009-02-05 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Musser, A. (December 2018). "Thylacinus potens". Extinct animals. The Australian Museum.
  5. 1 2 Yates, A. M. (2014). "New craniodental remains of Thylacinus potens (Dasyuromorphia: Thylacinidae), a carnivorous marsupial from the late Miocene Alcoota Local Fauna of central Australia". PeerJ. 2: e547. doi:10.7717/peerj.547. PMC   4157238 . PMID   25237601.