Monday, March 28, 2005

Bounty for the Tasmanian Tiger

Conventional science believes that the last Tasmanian Tiger (or thylacine) died September 7, 1936 but each year dozens of sightings are reported. Finally cash in on the line.

Cryptozoologists have special hopes for the thylacine (one of the crypto societies even adopted it as a mascot). As improbable as they might be, thylacines still seem more credible than Bigfoot or Nessie.

According to Robert Bakker in Dinosaur Heresies (I think--I don't have it in front of me), the thylacine was restricted to Tasmania because during the last Ice Age, sea levels dropped, connecting Tasmania and many other islands to the mainland. Various non-marsupial species, including humans, were able to make their way to Australia and take the place of native creatures. When Asian canines arrived in Australia, the thylacine couldn't compete. As fierce as they were, placental mammals outbred and replaced them. Fortunately for the thylacine, crossing the Australian desert isn't the easily thing in the world, so by the time the Asian dogs spread throughout the entire continent, the earth had warmed, making Tasmania an island once more. Had Tasmania been on the accessible northern side of Australia, instead of the southern, the thylacine (and the devil) would have gone extinct thousands of years ago.

The Asian canines evolved into the modern dingo, occasionally snatching a baby, but no longer such a genocidal threat. Thylacines thrived until European settlers wiped them out. Sadly, this wasn't the only species in Tasmania driven to extinction. Native humans were killed to the last man, woman, and child, giving Tasmanian settlers the distinction of being more genocidally effective than Hitler, Pol Pot, or Stalin. At least the devils are still with us.

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