The Extinct Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger

The Thylacine was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times.  It is commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger (because of its striped lower back) or the Tasmanian wolf.  Native to continental Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea, it is believed to have become extinct in the 20th century.  It was the last extant member of its family, Thylacinidae;  specimens of other members of the family have been found in the fossil record dating back to the late Oligocene.

The Thylacine had become extremely rare or extinct on the Australian mainland before British settlement of the continent, but it survived on the island of Tasmania along with several other endemic species, including the Tasmanian Devil.  Intensive hunting encouraged by bounties is generally blamed for its extinction, but other contributing factors may have been disease, the introduction of dogs, and human encroachment into its habitat.  Despite its official classification as extinct, sightings are still reported, though none has been conclusively proven.

About the video:  Compilation of all five known Australian silent films featuring the recently extinct thylacines, shot in Hobart Zoo, Tasmania, Australia. Benjamin, the last specimen, is shown in the footage starting from 2:05.  The clips are separated by fades.

Video Source (public domain);  reference

RECORD BREAKERS

Life on earth, as magnificent and versatile as it is, is seemingly tame compared to the weird and wonderful creatures that once existed. All categories of life have reached unimaginable sizes, here are just a selection of prehistoric record breakers!

MEGALODON
The biggest shark known to have existed, ruling over the oceans as recently as up to a million years ago. A length of almost 20 metres and weighing in at an estimated 48 tonnes, Megalodon could deliver a crucifying bite of up to 110,000N. It is no surprise that the Megalodon was dubbed the “whale killing shark”.

MEGATHERIUM
Our early ancestors would have been quite familiar with Megatherium as they existed up to 8000 years ago, they were in fact the largest sloths to have existed. Sloths have a reputation as being lazy, slow and docile, but Megatherium was a 6 metre long, 4 tonne monster with a killer instinct and knife-like claws. Megatherium’s discovery came before that of the dinosaurs. Skeletons of these prehistoric beasts were a delight to the Victorian public and paved the way for the science of palaeontology.

ARCHELON
Literally meaning “large turtle”, Archelon certainly was just that. Existing during the cretaceous, the time of the dinosaurs, Archelon could reach 4.5 metres long and may have lived to over 100 years old. Archelon could not compete with other cretaceous beings in speed and agility, but its blade-like beak was able to slice through flesh and crush though the toughest ammonite shells. Unfortunately Archelon appears to have been a popular snack for other marine dwellers, skeletons are frequently missing flippers or heads and covered in slashes.

TITANOBOA
When the dinosaurs reign ended, a new era saw the rise of new super-predators, one was Titanoboa, the largest snake ever with a body up to 13 metres long, standing a metre off the ground and weighing up to 2500 pounds. Titanoboa was 30% longer than even todays largest species. Scientists believe this humongous snake hunted like its modern relatives, the boa constrictors, by winding around prey and suffocating them.

IRISH ELK
Owner of the largest antlers of any animal, up to 3 metres wide, the Irish Elk gets its name from its frequent discoveries in Irish peat bogs. Existing up to 10,000 years ago, these would have been a common sight in grasslands for our ancestors. Many fossils indicate the animals died of starvation which is why the antlers are thought to have been part of elaborate mating contests between males, often resulting in one being fatally injured and unable to feed itself.

DEINOTHERIUM
A distant relative of the elephants and mammoths, Deinotherium was more sinister, its name translates to “terrible beast”, they would have most likely caused trouble for our ancient ancestors around 1.5 million years ago. Deinotherium is actually considered to be the second largest land mammal of all time, behind Paraceratherium and is iconic in appearance due to its sharp, downward facing tusks.

ARCTODUS
Known as the short faced bear, they were the biggest bears on record and one of the largest mammal carnivores to have existed. Whilst their skull was short, they were packed with piercing teeth that could deliver a bone crushing bite. Existing up to 11,000 years ago, out ancestors would have stayed well clear of this 900 kilogram predator, with slender limbs and knife-like claws, Arctodus was deadly.

SARCOSUCHUS
One of the most infamous fossil discoveries in history, Sarcosuchus was the largest crocodile to walk the Earth up to 112 million years ago, this was a crocodile capable of killing dinosaurs. Sarcosuchus was twice as long as a saltwater crocodile, that’s 11-12 metres long and could reach over 8 tonnes. Its jaw was packed full of 66 teeth either side of its jaw and would have clamped down on prey that wandered too near.

ARGENTINOSAURUS
One of the largest lifeforms that has ever stood on the Earth, Argentinosaurus could grow up to 30 metres long with its hind limbs standing 4.5 metres off the ground. They existed between 97-94 million years ago and at adulthood would have been virtually indestructible to predators. Its weight is estimated at a staggering 80-100 tonnes. There hasn’t been another land mammal on the same scale as Argentinosaurus since and it’s unlikely there ever will be.

SPINOSAURUS
The largest discovered therapod ever, a group that includes Allosaurus and Tryrannosaurus. Spinosaurus remained an enigma to scientists for decades, the only discovered specimen was sadly destroyed during World War 2 and was not rediscovered until the 21st century. Spinosaurus is thought to have reached up to 16 metres long and weighed in around 12 tonnes, that is almost double the weight of a T-rex!

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Once, the Hawaiian islands were home to five different species of corvid.  The Hawaiian crow was the only one to survive to the modern era.  It was once one of the most common birds seen in the tropical forests, but has suffered a catastrophic decline in the last 50 years.  By the year 1994, only 31 of these crows remained in the world.  The last wild pair of Hawaiian crows was seen in 2002, and it has since been declared extinct in the wild.  This gives the Hawaiian crow the dubious honours of being both Hawaii’s only remaining endemic corvid and the rarest corvid on our planet.

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For the past forty years, there has been a concentrated effort to breed the Hawaiian crow in captivity.  These efforts seemed to have reach their culmination last November when five male birds were released into the wild on Hawaii’s Big Island, making this the first time in decades that the Hawaiian crow has been seen in the wild.  However, the initial elation was short-lived.  Within two weeks, three of the five crows were dead of unknown causes.  Fearing for the safety of the others, scientists recaptured the two remaining birds and are keeping them in an aviary until they figure out what went wrong.