The External Anatomy of the Thylacine

Sexual dimorphism (continued):

    The Mercury newspaper of the 29th July 1905 (p. 5) notes: 

    "A native tiger over 5ft. in length and large in frame was shot by Mr. R. Hughes at Upper Huon on July 25".

    The Launceston Examiner of the 5th June 1909 (p. 1) notes: 

    "A Tasmanian tiger has been caught on the Middlesex run.  It measured 7ft. from tip to tip".

    The Launceston Examiner of the 22nd November 1887 (p. 2) notes:

    "The animal measured 7ft. from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail, and weighed 65½ lb".

    The Launceston Examiner of the 28th May 1887 (p. 2) notes:

    "His tigership measured five feet from tip to tip, and weighed about 60lbs., while his height was about 2ft. 6in".

    The Mercury of the 12th July 1884 (p. 4) notes: 

    "Mr. Thos. Dunbabin has again been fortunate in capturing a tiger upon his sheep run.  The animal is of a large size measuring 5ft. 2½ in. from the tip of the tail to his head".

    The Mercury of the 23rd July 1892 (p.4) notes:

    "A large tiger was caught last week near Fentonbury, on a run owned by Mr. R. C. Read, of Redlands, by the shepherd, John McCullum, in a snare which was set for kangaroo.  It is over 4ft. from tip of nose to butt of tail". 

    Importantly, two of these press reports also quote the body weights. 

    Whilst working on the International Thylacine Specimen Database (ITSD), Dr. Stephen Sleightholme measured a number of skins and taxidermy specimens in which the sex of the individual was known.  These measurements are published here for the first time, together with known historical measurements.  Sleightholme (2013) states: "The measurements of taxidermy specimens and skins can only be used as an approximate guide to life measurements.  Specimen skins are subject to shrinkage with storage, and by the very nature of the taxidermy process, skins are stretched over a manikin".

    The male group consisted of a total of 18 animals.  Measurements from five of these were taken from historic records - e.g., Paterson (1805), Harris (1808), Temminck (1824), Waterhouse (1846), and Cunningham (1882).  The remaining thirteen measurements have been taken from skins, wet specimens, or taxidermy mounts in the collections of the Australian Museum (AM1) (AM2) (AM3), Cambridge University Museum of Zoology [UK] (A6 7.2) (A6 7.13), Zoological Museum in Zurich (11184), National Australian Museum in Canberra (AIA 4330), Whanganui Regional Museum [NZ] (1805.61), University of Ghent [BEL] (taxidermy), Museum National d' histoire Naturelle in Paris (2000-153), Booth Museum [UK] (300130), Otago Museum [NZ] (VT2607) and The Bristol Museum & Art Gallery [UK] (Aa1637).  Measurements were obtained with a tape measure starting from the nose then following the contour of the midline of the head and back to the root of the tail.  Measurements from historical records were converted from imperial to metric measurements for accurate comparison.  AM 1-3 are skin measurements taken by Malcolm Smith (1982) from the Australian Museum collection and noted in his paper: "Review of the Thylacine".  Specimen AIA 4330 in the collection of the National Museum of Australia is a "wet" specimen.  Additionally, the measurements for three juvenile males: Crisp (1855), Oxford Museum of Natural History (OU-8091), and the Cambridge Museum of Zoology (A6 7.12), have been included, plus an adult skin from Cambridge Museum of Zoology with a withered tail (A6 7.4).  These four measurements have been included for the purpose of comparison, but excluded from calculations to determine the mean adult body length.

Measurement: Mean: Upper variable: Lower variable:
Total body length: 1612mm 1900mm 1325mm
Nose to root of tail: 1126mm 1450mm 920mm
Tail length: 485mm 620mm 405mm
Mean results for the group of males.  Source: ITSD, 2013.

    With respect to the female group, Waterhouse (1846), Cunningham (1882) and Oldfield (1888) were used as the historical references.  Ubersee Museum [D] (366), Cambridge University Museum of Zoology (A6 7.9), Museum National d' Histoire Naturelle in Paris (1884-262) (1875-805), Hessiches Landes Museum [D] (HLMD M 1241), and the Ulster Museum [UK] (LH 928) were modern references taken from preserved skins and taxidermy mounts.  A sixth measurement for an adult female from the Museum of Zoology in Cambridge (A6 7.6) has been included for comparison purposes only, and excluded from the mean measurements.  On examination, the tail of the skin was withered, and at 170mm in length, bore no comparison to the true tail length in the living animal.  With a nose-to-root-of-tail length of 1030mm, the actual tail length in the living animal would have been somewhere in the order of 450-500mm in length.

Measurement: Mean: Upper variable: Lower variable:
Total body length: 1386mm 1730mm 1193mm
Nose to root of tail: 954mm 1250mm 787mm
Tail length: 432mm 530mm 356mm
Mean results for the group of females.  Source: ITSD, 2013.

    The results of this limited study indicate that the total body length of an adult male thylacine is on average 14% larger than that of an adult female.  From these measurements, the mean male total body length was found to be 1.61m (5 ft., 3 in.), and the mean female total body length 1.38m (4 ft., 6 in.).  These figures are above those routinely quoted in the literature. Thylacines with total body length measurements less than 1.22m (4 ft.) are normally considered juveniles.

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