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The mature thylacine ranged from 100 to 130 cm long, plus a tail of around 50 to 65 cm. Adults stood about 60 cm at the shoulder and weighed 20 to 30 kg. There was slight sexual dimorphism with the males being larger than females on average.
Its yellow-brown coat featured 15 to 20 distinctive dark stripes across its back, rump and the base of its tail One of the stripes extended down the outside of the rear thigh. The female Thylacine had a back-opening pouch. The litter size was up to four and the young were dependent on the mother until at least half-grown. Males also had a back-opening, partial pouch. Its body hair was dense and soft, up to 15 mm in length. Colouration varied from light fawn to a dark brown; the belly was cream-coloured. Its rounded ears were about 8 cm long and covered with short fur.
Lived throughout mainland Australia and New Guinea, thylacine probably preferred the dry eucalyptus forests, woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands.
The thylacine was a nocturnal and crepuscular hunter, spending the daylight hours in small caves or hollow tree trunks in a nest of twigs, bark or fern fronds. It tended to retreat to the hills and forest for shelter during the day and hunted in the open heath at night. Early observers noted that the animal was typically shy and secretive, with awareness of the presence of humans and generally avoiding contact, though it occasionally showed inquisitive traits.
The thylacine was carnivorous. Prey is believed to include kangaroos, wallabies and wombats, birds and small animals such as potoroos and possums.
- The last known live animal was captured in 1933 in Tasmania.
- There is some controversy over the preferred prey size of the thylacine. A 2011 study by the University of New South Wales using advanced computer modelling indicated that the thylacine had surprisingly feeble jaws. Animals usually take prey close to their own body size, but an adult thylacine of around 30 kilograms was found to be incapable of handling prey much larger than 5 kilograms. Thus, some researchers believe thylacines only ate small animals such as bandicoots and possums, putting them into direct competition with the Tasmanian deviland the tiger quoll. However, an earlier study showed that the thylacine had a bite force quotient of 166, similar to that of most quolls; in modern mammalian predators, such a high bite force is almost always associated with predators which routinely take prey as large, or larger than, themselves.
- A research team at the Australian Museum launched the Thylacine Cloning Project in 1999 to attempt to clone a Tasmanian tiger. The research team obtained tissue samples from a female thylacine that had been preserved in alcohol for over 100 years. They were able to extract DNA, and by 2002, they had replicated individual genes. However, in 2005, researchers determined that the quality of the DNA was too poor to work with, and the project was scrapped.
- Thylacine was featured in an Australian drama movie, 'The Hunter' (2011). The main character played by Willem Dafoe is sent to hunted down a thylacine, a supposedly extinct animal whose genetic code holds the secret to a dangerous weapon. The movie was based on a 1999 novel of the same name written by Julia Leigh.