Feeding ecology and diet

Unfortunately, early research interest in the thylacine concerned classical anatomy and the species became extinct without any serious study of its ecology. What is known of diet, hunting, and killing behaviors has been gleaned from historical anecdotes or reconstructed from comparison of skeletal remains with its living relatives. Thylacines are reported to have taken a wide variety of prey, including wombats, macropods, possums, bandicoots, small mammals, and birds, suggesting they were generalist predators of prey between less than 2.2 lb (1 kg) and probably not much more than 66 lb (30 kg). Tas-manian wolves had a long, thin snout relative to all other mammalian carnivores, marsupial or placental, most like that of a fox. This translates to a relatively weak bite force at the canine teeth. Museum-collection skulls also have very low rates

The pouch of the Tasmanian wolf faced backwards. When the pouch young were large, the pouch bulged downward from the animal. (Illustration by Wendy Baker)
The Tasmanian wolf (Thylacinus cynocephalus) is believed to be extinct. This is one of very few known photos of the species alive and free-living. The date of the photo is unknown. (Photo by Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

of breakage of the canines. Combined with the dietary records, and in contrast to prey sizes taken by devils and the larger quolls (up to three times their body weight), this combination of features suggests that thylacines did not routinely kill very heavy-bodied prey or prey much larger than themselves (33-66 lb; 15-30 kg). While they are recorded killing kangaroos, it is unlikely that they regularly killed healthy large males (up to 155 lb; 70 kg) or the larger megafauna such as diprotodonts. A similar ovoid cross-sectional shape of the canine teeth to the living larger dasyurid carnivores suggests that thylacines probably killed their prey using a generalized crushing bite used in killing. Tasmanian wolves were probably not swift runners, which is indicated by comparison of their leg bone ratios with other marsupial and placental carnivores. Unlikely to be capable of sustained, fast pursuit, thylacines probably hunted using a combination of stealth, short pursuit, and ambush. Putting all of these pieces of information together, it is likely that the thylacine filled a niche more similar to a medium-sized canid such as a coyote than to a wolf.

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