Monday, 21 November 2011

Thylacines prey for the wrong reasons

We've reported before on the exciting findings of a new examination of the skull of an extinct Tasmanian tiger, reported recently in the Journal of Zoology, that suggests that the dog-like marsupial, also known as a thylacine, was mistakenly branded as a livestock killer and wrongfully hunted to extinction by Australian and Tasmanian farmers in the early 20th century.

But we're quite happy to flag a new story on the study over at the Science Line website that further explores the skull examinations by biologist Marie Attard of the University of New South Wales, which indicate that the carnivore was also vulnerable to extinction because it had a very narrow range of prey, probably consisting of animals smaller than itself, like wallabies, bandicoots, and possums. 

Limitations in killing larger prey would have increased the thylacine’s vulnerability to extinction, unless smaller prey was consistently abundant. If Attard is correct, thylacines did not regularly hunt cattle or sheep and thus were wrongfully eradicated by farmers. You can read the whole thing over here. Thanks to Paul Cropper for pointing it out.

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