The External Anatomy
of the Thylacine
Some illustrations and
photographs of the thylacine give the impression of the stripe pattern
continuing down the length of the tail. However, this is actually
an effect of light and shadow across the individual joints of the tail
when viewed from certain angles, and is not due to pigment. These
are only seen in photographs of living thylacines, and are not
present in preserved specimens such as taxidermies, unless painted
on by hand. Body fat is stored in the tail, and when these fat deposits
are depleted, the tail vertebrae become evident, giving the illusion of
visible on the tail of a thylacine at the London Zoo, 1914. Other
photos of this individual: 1,
Courtesy: Zoological Society of London.
| The sex of a thylacine
can occasionally be determined by close examination of the lower root of
the tail. In adult males, the lower root of the tail is thickened
to accommodate the penis; this thickening is naturally not found in the
of the lower root of tail in a male thylacine (left) in comparison to that
of a female (right).
captive thylacine - Beaumaris Zoo (QD), Hobart (1933).
Photo courtesy: David Fleay
Zoo's last female thylacine.
Photo courtesy: Zoological
Society of London.
juvenile male thylacine at the London Zoo in 1910, displaying an erect
tail crest. Image courtesy: Zoological Society of London. Another
photo of this individual is shown here.
|| The thylacine's
erect tail probably has both a communicative and an olfactory role.
Cunningham (1882) states that the area around the male's anus is highly
glandular, and it would seem logical that these numerous glands have some
pheromonal role. The end of the thylacine's tail has a small, erectile
crest near the tip. Thomas (1888) makes reference to the crest: "The
tail is only rather thinly haired, except at the base, and bears a dark
tip and a very slight crest above and below". The
crest is shown in its erect state in Hans
J. Kull's 1843 illustration of the thylacine.
Michael Sharland (1941) in an article in the Bulletin, a publication of
the New York Zoological Society, states:
"Its most peculiar feature is the tail. This is carried in a stiff, drooping
fashion, and merges gradually with the body with a greatly thickened base,
which prevents the animal wagging it as a dog can wag its tail. It is inflexible
and would seem to be a hindrance".
Erectile crest at the
end of the thylacine's tail. University of Liege taxidermy specimen
Source: International Thylacine
Specimen Database, 5th Revision 2013.