The extinct thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) and the extant grey wolf (Canis lupus) are textbook examples of convergence between marsupials and placentals. Craniodental studies confirm the thylacine's carnivorous diet, but little attention has been paid to its postcranial skeleton, which would confirm or refute rare eyewitness reports of a more ambushing predatory mode than the pack-hunting pursuit mode of wolves and other large canids. Here we show that thylacines had the elbow morphology typical of an ambush predator, and propose that the ‘Tasmanian tiger’ vernacular name might be more apt than the ‘marsupial wolf’. The ‘niche overlap hypothesis’ with dingoes (Canis lupus dingo) as a main cause of thylacine extinction in mainland Australia is discussed in the light of this new information.
- Received March 31, 2011.
- Accepted April 14, 2011.
- This Journal is © 2011 The Royal Society