Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 


Order Dasyurimorphia, superfamily Dasyuroidea, include Dasyurids, numbats and thylacinids. They are all predominantly or fully carnivorous or insectivorous. The Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), or Tasmanian wolf-Tasmanian Tiger, was the largest of the group, and the last of its family. T. potens from the Miocene may have been built more heavily. The last known living Thylacine died in 1936. Its disappearance on the mainland and New Guinea may have been related to the introduction of dogs. In Tasmania it was systematically exterminated by the government and sheep farmers.

Only 1 distinctive species, T. potens,  one of the largest thylacines, from the Late Miocene deposits in  Alcoota Local Fauna in the Northern Territory, was known prior to the discoveries at Riversleigh. More than 10 species of Thylacinus are known from northern and central Australia. They were the main mammalian predator of the Miocene.

At the time of writing, the most resent thylacine fossils found, from the Murra-el-Elevyn Cave on the Nullarbor Plain, are 3,300 years old. In another cave on the Nullarbor Plain, Thylacine Hole, a thylacine carcass was found, dated to 4,600 year ago, that was mummified by the extremely arid climate of the area that an eyeball and the tongue were still recognisable.

Nimbacinus dicksoni is very primitive, lacking the distinctive features of thylacines, such as a distinct metaconid on its lower molars,  from deposits other than Riversleigh. A jaw has been found at Bullock Creek in the Northern Territory.

3 species of thylacine are known from their crania, Nimbacinus dicksoni, Mutpuracinus archibaldi and Badjcinus turnbulli. Anatomical conservatism is a feature of the crania of the thylacines. The earliest know species shared many cranial features with dasyurids such as quolls and Tasmanian devils. Even the early thylacines display a trend towards increasing dental specialisation towards carnivory.


  • Thylacinus cynocephalus - Early Pliocene
  • Thylacinus megiriani - Upper Miocene - the largest known thylacine
  • Thylacinus macnessi - Upper Oligocene - Lower Miocene
  • Thylacinus. potens - Lower Miocene - Lower Miocene - the 2nd largest thylacine
  • Thylacinus rostralis
  • Nimbacinus dickinsoni - Late oligocene - Middle Miocene
  • N. richi (Possible variant of N. dickinsoni) - Middle Miocene
  • Mutpuracinus archibaldi - Middle Miocene
  • Badjcinus turnbulli- Early Oligocene
  • Maximucinus muirheadae - Middle Miocene
  • Muribacinus gadiyuli - Middle Miocene
  • Ngamalacinus timmulaneyi - Lower Miocene
  • Tjarrpecinus rothi - Upper Miocene
  • Wabulacinus ridei - Upper Oligocene - Lower Miocene



Sources & Further reading

  1. Death of the Megabeasts, DVD, Madman, SBS
  2. Josephine Flood, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, J. B. Publishing, 2004
  3. Chris Johnson, Australia's Mammal Extinctions, a 50,000 year history, Cambridge University Press, 2006
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                                                                                           Author: M.H.Monroe  Email:     Sources & Further reading