Most large extinct animals are known only from fossils. The thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, is one of the few that was photographed and even filmed before it vanished. This fascinating animal was a marsupial (a pouched mammal) that evolved the shape, appearance, and lifestyle of a wolf. Thylacines once lived throughout New Guinea, Australia, and Tasmania. The last one died in a zoo in 1936.
■ When: 2 million years ago—1936
■ Location: Tasmania, Australia, New Guinea
■ Habitat: Woodlands
■ Length: Around 3 ft (1 m)
■ Diet: Meat
Before it disappeared, the thylacine was the largest carnivorous marsupial of modern times. It had a slender, doglike build, dark stripes on a tan-colored back, and a skull remarkably like a wolf ’s. Unlike a wolf, however, the thylacine was unable to run fast on all fours, and it had a stiff tail like a kangaroo’s. Unusually for a marsupial, both males and females had pouches. It was nocturnal, hiding in the day and hunting at night for emus, kangaroos, and small animals.
By the early 20th century, thylacines had disappeared from Australia and were perilously rare in Tasmania. But farmers thought they were killing sheep, and the Tasmanian government paid them a bounty of £1 for every one they shot. By the 1930s, only one was left in Hobart Zoo in Tasmania (in the main picture). It died in 1936. Despite tantalizing claims of sightings since then, the species was officially declared extinct in 1982.
The Tasmanian devil is one of the closest living relatives of the thylacine. This cat-sized carnivore is named for its blood-curdling scream and is famous for having an immensely powerful bite that can crush bones. It eats every bit of a carcass—bone, skin, feet, and all. When alarmed, it gives out a foul odor to drive away enemies.