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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.
Intensive hunting encouraged by bounties is generally blamed for its extinction, but other contributing factors may have been disease, the introduction of dogs, and human encroachment into its habitat.
Despite its official classification as extinct, sightings are still reported, though none has been conclusively proven.
Despite this, it is unrelated to any of the Northern Hemisphere predators.
They are easy to tell from a true dog because of the stripes on the back but the skeleton is harder to distinguish.
Recognition that the Australian marsupials were fundamentally different from the known mammal genera led to the establishment of the modern classification scheme, and in 1796, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire created the genus Dasyurus where he placed the thylacine in 1810.
Since the thylacine filled the same ecological niche in Australia as the dog family did elsewhere, it developed many of the same features.
Petroglyph images of the thylacine can be found at the Dampier Rock Art Precinct on the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia.
By the time the first European explorers arrived, the animal was already extinct in mainland Australia and rare in Tasmania.
The skulls of the thylacine (left) and the timber wolf, Canis lupus, are quite similar, although the species are only distantly related.
Studies show that the skull shape of the red fox, Vulpes vulpes, is even closer to that of the thylacine.