The Australian Museum’s Mammal Collection houses many unique and precious specimens. Among them is a preserved female baby Thylacine. Thylacines were once known as Tasmanian Tigers and they are Australia’s largest and most recently surviving marsupial carnivore.
Like other marsupials, Thylacines give birth to poorly developed young that crawl from the birth canal to the pouch where they continue to grow while attached to a teat. Female Thylacines have a pouch that opens to the rear and (not to be left out) male Thylacines have testes located in a pouch as well. Not much is known about Thylacine reproduction but we know that breeding occurred mostly in winter and spring. The gestation period was around 30 days and up to four young could be produced.
Thylacine skins, skulls and skeletons can be found in museums in Europe, America and Australia. However, not many collectors thought to preserve entire specimens so there are only 14 spirit-preserved Thylacine pouch young in existence today.
This fully furred baby female, with its stripes just visible, is approximately 210 millimetres long and is one of the most fully developed specimens. It was shipped from Hobart to Sydney on 27 December 1866. It was registered as item PA.762. At the time, Thylacines were regarded as a pest species and were actively hunted under a government bounty system which operated until just a few short months of the last known individual dying in captivity.
Opportunities to learn more about Thylacine biology are now very limited but specimens such as PA.762 offer one of the few chances to do so. They also remind us of how quickly and easily even the most iconic of Australian mammals can slide into extinction.