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The thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) was the largest marsupial carnivore but it is now widely believed to be extinct. Despite similarities with canids such as the wolf, the thylacine was extremely distinctive, and the canine appearance was offset by the tapered hindquaters, relatively short legs and broad-based tail, which cannot be wagged from side-to-side. The short, coarse fur was a dirty yellow-brown with 13 to 19 transverse brown stripes running from the upper back to the base of the tail; animals from highland areas had a richer cinnamon-brown coat. There were lighter patches of fur surrounding the eyes and near the erect, rounded ears. The belly was cream coloured, females carried a backwards-opening pouch, and males possessed a pseudo pouch in the form of a fold of skin that protected the testes when moving quickly through low bushland. The thylacine was renowned for its ability to open its jaw remarkably wide; whilst it is highly unlikely that this yawn was as wide as is sometimes quoted (180°), the gape was still the widest of any mammal, and is surpassed only by that of the snake. This species is a classic example of 'convergent evolution'; it is a marsupial mammal that closely resembles the placental canids, especially the wolf from which one of its common names is derived, due to the similarities in their way of life.

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See Also

  • Dingo (Not a marsupial, but the largest Australian carnivore today.)
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