Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tasmanian Wolf

The Tasmanian wolf is not a wolf, but a carnivorous marsupial and a relative of wombats and kangaroos. It even has a pouch. Tasmanian officials promoting ranching paid bounties to hunters. Believed to be extinct for well over half a century, unconfirmed reported sightings persist.

The Tasmanian Wolf is believed to have been extinct for nearly sixty-five years. Despite its appearance and its popular name, this animal was not in fact a species of wolf, nor was it a dog, which it also resembled. It was actually a marsupial -- the largest carnivorous marsupial in recent times -- and was closely related to the kangaroo and the wombat. (Its pouch is not visible in this mount.) Thus the Tasmanian Wolf's Latin name, Thylacinus cynocephalus, meaning "pouched dog with wolf head," reflects the animal's true nature as well as its similarity to the dog and the wolf.

The Tasmanian Wolf's resemblance to unrelated species is a result of what scientists call convergent evolution, in which similar features develop separately in different species. The Tasmanian Wolf evolved into a form comparable to members of the dog family because it filled much the same ecological niche in Australia as true dogs do in their environments.

The extinction of the Tasmanian Wolf is attributable solely to activities of human beings. In the nineteenth century, when Tasmania encouraged agriculture, the Tasmanian Wolf was considered a threat to livestock, and bounty hunters were paid twenty-five cents per scalp as part of a concerted, and successful, effort to eliminate the animal. It was soon hunted to extinction. Today, in the hopes that the Tasmanian Wolf is not truly extinct, the Australian Conservation Foundation offers $100 just for a sighting of the animal's tracks. So far, there has been none.

Source: Wikipedia


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