It has been more than eight decades since the last known Tasmanian tiger died. In that time, the marsupial has become the stuff of textbook sketches and yellowing photographs, little more than a memory aging into oblivion.
But Thylacinus cynocephalus may still be out there.Recent “plausible sightings” have challenged the accepted wisdom that the animal has gone extinct — and have inspired researchers at Australia’s James Cook University to commence a quest to find it themselves.
Let’s clarify one thing right away: this animal is no feline. In fact, it’s a marsupial — in the same family as kangaroos — but its face looks a lot like a dog.
“It’s a dog with a pouch,” the university’s Sandra Abell tells All Things Considered. She’s one of the people leading the search in Queensland, Australia.
The Tasmanian tiger, in this photograph taken while the species was still around. terr-bo/Flickr
A Tasmanian tiger in captivity, circa 1930. It is believed that the last wild thylacine was shot in 1930 and the last captive one died in 1936. Topical Press Agency/Getty Images