The thylacine is digitigrade,
and like dogs and cats, walks on its toes. A major difference between
the feet of the thylacine and those of a canid however, is that there is
no webbing present between the thylacine's toes. In canids, the webbing
serves to hold the digits together when the animal is running. Thylacines
also have proportionately longer rear limbs as compared to canids, giving
them a rear-to-front sloping back, and a loping gait.
walk sequence created by Arnfinn Holderer (2016) after Moeller (1997),
with technical contributions from C. Campbell and Dr. S. Sleightholme.
Click gear button in lower right corner and select "?" to view control
options for changing viewing angle and distance. This animation is
copyright and unauthorized use strictly prohibited.
series of stills taken from a 1933
motion picture, a thylacine can be seen standing upright with
its front limbs in the air, resting on its elongated back feet, and using
the end of its tail as an additional support. In this posture, it
takes on a kangaroo-like appearance and occasionally hops a short distance.
The above animation is based on a series of illustrations by Moeller (1997).
The walk sequence was recently animated by Arnfinn Holderer (a biologist
at Heidelberg University) with help from the Thylacine Museum's curator
Cameron Campbell and Dr. Stephen Sleightholme the Project Director of the
International Thylacine Specimen Database. The animation demonstrates
the normal walking gait sequence of the thylacine, in which each limb moves
in sequence through a lift, swing, support, and thrust phase; two limbs
alternating with three in supporting the thylacine's body weight.
A total of eight different combinations of limb support occur during one
cycle or stride: four of three-legged support and four of two-legged support.
For each limb, the duration of support exceeds that of the swing.
The neck and head of the thylacine are lowered during forelimb swing and
raised during forelimb support. The body undulates laterally as well
as vertically, and the tail and head swing toward the side being laterally
supported. Stride length is such that the hind foot approximately
overlays the site occupied by the ipsilateral fore foot.
when examining the surviving motion picture footage of captive thylacines,
observed two distinct methods of locomotion. The first was the plantar
walk, common to most mammals, in which diagonally opposite limbs move alternately,
but with the entire pes, including the long heel, in contact with the ground.
The second was the bipedal hop. In a
Gait cycle of the thylacine.
Source: Moeller (1997).
thylacine "kangaroo standing" at the Beaumaris Zoo (QD).
In the wild, thylacines use this upright posture to gain a better view
of their surroundings. Because the thylacine's heel has a long and
narrow tract of bare, roughened skin along its length, it is evident that
the animal frequently rests it on the ground in a kangaroo-like stance.
This image is from a motion film made in 1933.
the film icon above to view a 3D computer animation of a thylacine standing
| Lord & Scott (1924)
"Keen observers of
this species in its native haunts have stated that when very hard pressed
it will rise on its hind legs, and progress like a Kangaroo. It is
of interest to note that this fact was recorded many years ago when the
species was much more plentiful than it is today. In the 'History
of Austral-Asia,' by R. M. Martin, published in London, 1839„ the following
reference occurs: 'The Hyena opossum, or tiger, is very destructive among
flocks, and sometimes measures six feet from snout to tail... Its mouth
resembles that of a wolf, with huge jaws opening almost to the ears.
The legs are short in proportion to the body, and it has a sluggish appearance;
but in running it bounds like a Kangaroo, though not with such speed.'
Whilst this statement
bears out our belief that the animal may occasionally resort to a hopping
mode of progression, it certainly overstates the case when it states that
the Thylacine usually hops like a Kangaroo when running. It is only
when very hard pressed that, it resorts to the Kangaroo-like method of
took biometric measurements from a series of skeletons of various predatory
mammal species, comparing the length of the limbs to that of the trunk
(i.e. the spinal column minus the tail). The thylacine's legs proved
to be proportionately much shorter than those of a wolf, and are actually
more consistent in form with those of dasyurid marsupials. The limb
length ratio infers that the thylacine relies more on stalking rather than
lengthy pursuit of its prey, and consequently would be more suited to living
in forest habitats than open fields. Of the placental carnivores
studied by Moeller, the most comparable in limb proportions to the thylacine
is the Clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), a native of the Asian
rainforests. Moeller also demonstrated that in order to preserve
the muscles' mechanical efficiency, the greatest lengthening in canid limbs
is to be found at the wrist and ankle. However, the legs of the thylacine
are not as proportionately long as those of dogs and other canids, and
it likely stalks its prey in a cat-like manner in preference to actively
Clouded leopard (Neofelis
Historical reports speak
of the thylacine slowly but relentlessly "jogging" after its prey over
long distances, gradually wearing the prey animal down to the point that
it could be easily killed with a sudden rush. Meredith (1852)
states: "The common pace of the tiger is a measured, steady canter".
The thylacine is, however, capable of speedy chase when circumstances warrant
it (see information regarding hunting).