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Zoology students at Oxford had to identify 100 zoological specimens as part of the final exam.
Word soon got around that, if ever a 'dog' skull was given, it was safe to identify it as Thylacinus on the grounds that anything as obvious as a dog skull had to be a catch.
Research published in Genome Research in January 2009 suggests the numbat may be more basal than the devil.
The resulting cladogram follows below: Descriptions of the thylacine vary, as evidence is restricted to preserved joey specimens, fossil records, skins and skeletal remains, black and white photographs and film of the animal in captivity, and accounts from the field.
An example of convergent evolution, the thylacine showed many similarities to the members of the dog family, Canidae, of the Northern Hemisphere: sharp teeth, powerful jaws, raised heels and the same general body form.
Since the thylacine filled the same ecological niche in Australia as the dog family did elsewhere, it developed many of the same features.
In 1824, it was separated out into its own genus, Thylacinus, by Temminck.
Several studies support the thylacine as being a basal member of the Dasyuromorphia and the Tasmanian devil as its closest living relative.
Studies show that the skull shape of the red fox, Vulpes vulpes, is even closer to that of the thylacine.
Positive identification of the thylacine as the animal encountered cannot be made from this report since the tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) is similarly described.
The first definitive encounter was by French explorers on , as noted by the naturalist Jacques Labillardière, in his journal from the expedition led by D'Entrecasteaux.
Surviving evidence suggests that it was a relatively shy, nocturnal creature with the general appearance of a medium-to-large-size dog, except for its stiff tail and abdominal pouch (reminiscent of a kangaroo) and dark transverse stripes that radiated from the top of its back, similar to those of a tiger.
The thylacine was an apex predator, like the tigers and wolves of the Northern Hemisphere from which it obtained two of its common names.