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Nature & Environment

Did drought cause mainland thylacine decline?

By T.K. Randall
September 28, 2017 · Comment icon 16 comments

Thylacine numbers plummeted around 3,000 years ago. Image Credit: Benjamin A. Sheppard
Drought, rather than human hunting, may have wiped out the Tasmanian tiger on the Australian mainland.
While human hunting is thought to have been primarily responsible for wiping out the last few remaining thylacines in Tasmania during the early 20th century, a conclusive explanation for their disappearance from the mainland of Australia 2,000 years earlier has remained a lot more elusive.

Now though, by extracting DNA samples from fossil bones and museum specimens, researchers from the University of Adelaide's Australian Center for Ancient DNA may have finally solved the mystery.

Their research involved creating the biggest dataset of thylacine DNA to date and then using that to build up a picture of how the animals' population sizes varied over time.
The results suggested that, rather than being wiped out by human hunting or the introduction of wild dogs, the primary factor in the demise of the thylacine from the mainland of Australia was actually an extensive period of drought which decimated their numbers around 3,000 years ago.

"We also found evidence of a population crash, reducing numbers and genetic diversity of thylacines, in Tasmania around the same time," said ACAD deputy director Jeremy Austin.

"Tasmania would have been somewhat shielded from the warmer, drier climate because of its higher rainfall, but it appears that this population was also affected by the El Nino event before starting to recover."

Source: Phys.org | Comments (16)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #7 Posted by Astra. 6 years ago
Thank you for your input oldrover, you certainly seem to know much concerning the history of this extinct animal. From what I have gathered tho, these creatures were targeted from the year 1830 to 1909. Apparently there were thousands slaughtered because of a bounty offered. Even after the animal became scarce, the bounty still remained opened. The reason for this hysterical culling was that the tiger was blamed for killing sheep, where as the dingo was probably the real culprit for killing the sheep on the mainland. It's still a sad story to say the least for the Tassie tiger. All in al... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by qxcontinuum 6 years ago
no, it was humans causing their existence like many other Australian animals
Comment icon #9 Posted by oldrover 6 years ago
Yes, there were several bounty schemes. But only in Tasnania, and the paper only deals with the earlier mainland extinction. Climate change played no part in the Tasmanian extinction, that was purely hunting, although not as is often suggested, by dedicated tiger hunters. We still killed all the thylacines, but it wasn't the bounty schemes that drove us, in most cades the tigers were a by product of general fur trapping.  Dingoes don't come into it, where there were dingoes and sheep, there were no thylacines, and where there were sheep and thylacines there were no ding0es. Just feral dogs.... [More]
Comment icon #10 Posted by oldrover 6 years ago
The governments bounty scheme ended in 1909, after a crash in numbers in that year, although numbers had halved in 07 and 08 from usual. The Van Diemen's Land Company scheme lasted till 1914 at Woolnorth, a big sheep station in the NW. But no payments had been made for several years. The big rush in tje next two decades was for scientiffic and zoo specimens, or at least that's who the yrappers sold to. But still they were just caught rarely, and by people tarhetting possum and wallaby prlts. That's where the real money was.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Astra. 6 years ago
That's very interesting. Can you provide any articles / records that may explain this in further detail..as I am genuinely curious. As I have mentioned earlier, you seem to be rather knowledgeable about the extinction of Australia's thylacines, especially from a person who lives in Wales. May I ask, what got you so interested in this particular species of extinct animal ?... 
Comment icon #12 Posted by Astra. 6 years ago
Did you mean to say 'extinction'...rather than 'existence' qx.....or am I going to be sorry that I even bothered to ask. ..  
Comment icon #13 Posted by qxcontinuum 6 years ago
yup ...funny... to heck with this spelling self checker. 
Comment icon #14 Posted by oldrover 6 years ago
My interest in the thylacine dates back to when I was a kid, when I first saw the animatronic tiger used in the ABC series the 'Nature of Australia'.  https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQ-vuyXmjU3nL6Q4v5MLeqAxRuHk5ILhnmxaRU5XSVWQSDWZofkhA It looks pretty dismal to me now, very cliched, completely the wrong colour, and not really like one at all, but at time and never having heard of them before it captivated me completely. That was 30 years ago, nowadays I'm researching the background to the 'last tiger at the zoo'. A short biography of Elias Churchill the man who's credit... [More]
Comment icon #15 Posted by Astra. 6 years ago
Cheers oldrover, I'll check out some of those sources that you have shared as soon as I get the time. I appreciate all of your information ...
Comment icon #16 Posted by Nostrodumbass 6 years ago
Maybe dying was the cause of the decline.


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