FANDOM


This article is about the marsupial lion from Australia. You may be looking for the similarly-named Thylacine.

Marsupial lion accurate reconstruction

{{{caption}}}
Marsupial lion

Vital statistics

Kind Other
Prehistoric
Country Australia, especially Queensland
First documented sighting circa 30,000ya (prehistoric encounters)
circa 1800's (modern)
Latest documented sighting
Other names Marsupial cat
Yarri
Singleton Giant Quoll
Drop Bear
Queensland Tiger
Tumbulgum Lion
Punchum

Scientific information

Recognized by science? No (accepted by some, e.g. Gary Opit)
Proposed species name Thylacoleo carnifex (Owen, 1859)
Major investigators Gary Opit
Rex Gilroy

Popular Culture

Episodes featured in Animal X: Series Two, Episode Two
Pop culture references Prehistoric Predators of the Past: What Killed the Mega Beasts?
Monsters Resurrected: Giant Ripper
Thylacoleo
Range
Loading map...
One of the fellest and most destructive of predatory beasts.

Sir Richard Owen, 1859.

The marsupial lion (Thylacoleo carnifex) is an Australian marsupial predator, officially extinct in the Late Pleistocene. Sightings persist in the modern day. It is known to the aboriginals as the yarri.

Notably, some eyewitnesses have noted a forward-facing tuft on the animals tail[1]. In 2008, long after the first of the sightings involving tufts, an Aboriginal cave painting was found depicting Thylacoleo with a tufted tail[2].

Like many Australian cryptids, sightings have waned in recent years, with most sightings (except the mass hunting) occuring in the 1960's, 1980's, and late-2000's to early-2010's.

It is possible that the marsupial lion is only one variety of Australian feline cryptids; some eyewitnesses say the creature is black with white stripes and a bushy tail, which is inconsistent with other reports and Aboriginal legends.

Name etymology

Thylacoleo means "pouch lion" in Latin, whilst carnifex means "murderous", "meat-cutting", or "butcher". The animal was named by Sir Richard Owen.

Physical appearance and biology

Thylacoleo is a powerful, stockily built animal with a short, lion-like head. Its body is short and it has long legs, creating a disproportional effect. The tail is like that of a Thylacine, but thicker and a little shorter. The tail also had a small white, forward-facing tuft on its tip. It also has short fur.

Notable physical adaptations include an opposable, clawed thumb, and specialised shearing teeth at the front of the mouth. Many various colours and patterns are reported, ranging from patternless tan, brown and black, with some sightings reporting stripes or spots, sometimes darker, sometimes lighter. Other sightings describe the animal as having brindle fur with yellow spots. This suggests a wide range of colours from individual to individual.

The head is round and somewhat oversized, with eyes of varying size (usually large) and rounded or triangular ears. It is supported by a thick and powerful neck.

Overall, Thylacoleo is an extremely powerful and stocky animal, packed full of muscle and highly disproportionate.

Behaviour and traits

Thylacoleo is a highly arboreal ambush predator. It is capable of scaling sheer surfaces with ease, and running in short bursts of massive speed.

It appears to attack the head or neck, and then tear open the stomach and eat the viscera, occasionally dragging prey into trees. Sometimes the preys skeleton will be licked clean. Although they usually eat smaller animals such as foxes and wallabies, they will take kangaroos and livestock.

Thylacoleo is capable of a number of vocalisations, a grunting noise, and a whirring or whining noise.

They mainly keep to thick woodland and forest, rarely venturing out into the open. It is during these rare trips through open land when most sightings occur. They will venture into farm paddocks to take livestock.

They are extremely stealthy and effective predators. They seem to be mainly nocturnal - most livestock kills occur by night and they are mainly seen by humans in the early morning. This is supported by cave paintings, which show large eyes on the animal.

History

Sightings Portal

See Marsupial lion/Sightings Portal.

Overview

Many dead animals are commonly found in the bush. Some of these are decapitated, and any may be the work of Thylacoleo. Sometimes these larger kills are found in trees - no living native predator could do this. Many dead farm animals have strange tooth marks on them, consistent with the teeth of Thylacoleo[3].

Sightings of Thylacoleo like animals are common[4]. The sightings listed here are the most notable or famous.
Black Thylacoleo model

How many 'phantom cats' are actually black Thylacoleo morphs?

It is unknown how many sightings of Australian Alien Big Cats, Phantom Cats and Panthers are actually Thylacoleo sightings, so listed here are only the sightings claimed specifically to be Thylacoleo.

Sightings of a Tumbulgum Lion have been reported for years, but no specific sightings or dates could be found at this time.

Taking into account a number of calculations (only about one in five sightings are reported, allegedly), approximately fifty people a day see Thylacoleo in the bush[5].

Allegedly, credible evidence of Thylacoleo's continued existence disappears whenever it is found. This has been taken by some as a government coverup, since having such animals roam the bush would be bad for tourism.

Furred Animals of Australia, written by Ellis Troughton, describes a tawny carnivorous cat-like marsupial with a tufted tail and striped flank, which he refers to as a marsupial cat.[6]. Ellis described it as a living animal, seen by many people.

A "tiger" was seen in 1705[7].

From 1970 to 1973, naturalist Janeice Plunkett collected more than 100 reports of this creature throughout Queensland[8].

Historical

Officially, Thylacoleo went extinct forty-six thousand years ago, but two cave paintings are dated to much later, circa ten thousand years ago - when most global megafauna went extinct due to human causes. Either way, humans certainly encountered the animal in historic times, and were responsible for its (supposed) extintion.

The human involvement was most likely indirect - the large prey animals were all killed by human settlers. It is unlikely than anyone would intentionally seek out and kill such a dangerous animal.

Historical Thylacoleo encounters are almost certainly behind the Aboriginal 'legend' of the Drop Bear. This is supported by a new cave painting, showing a Thylacoleo leaping down on someone as he attempts to spear it off[9].

Another Aboriginal legend describes the Yarri, a feared and extremely deadly semi-arboreal predator. It was the size of a dingo, with short legs and a long tail. It was extremely savage, and - if followed up trees - would bite the hands of those who dared follow it. On top of this, its flesh was not nice, so it was never intentionally killed. It liked retreating into rocky areas, and its favourite food was a type of wallaby[10].

Bundjalung Aboriginal people described this animal to early European settlers in this locality and two animals were shot and examined.

circa 1800's to circa 1900's Yarri Hunting

Around the 1800's, a farmer sighted two Thylacoleo. They fled at extreme speeds[11].

Far over two hundred accounts of Yarri sightings have been recorded since 1800, but farmers found them pests and killed many of them. From 1850 to the late 1990s, for 150 years, European explorers, settlers, farmers, bush walkers and scientists observed, shot, skinned, examined and described the animal in detail in scientific publications, magazines and newspapers.[12][13][14].

There are accounts of one being killed by dogs in Kairi in 1900, and again in 1926. A 'cat' the size of a sheepdog was killed in 1926. One was shot in 1932[15].

The significance of most of the animals that were shot was never realised - as such, carcasses were discarded, and in one case a body was left ouside and devoured by wild pigs[16].

In Carl Lumholtz's 1889 book "Among Cannibals", he states "In Western Queensland I heard much about an animal which seemed to me to be identical with the Yarri here described, and a speciman was nearly shot by an officer of the black police in the regions I was now visiting." page 101[17][18].

Among Cannibals Excerpt

"During my association with these savages I learned that on the summit of the Coast Mountains, before mentioned, there lived two varieties of mammals which seemed to me to be unknown to science; but I had much difficulty in acquiring this knowledge. One of the animals they called yarri. From their description I conceived it to be a marsupial tiger. It was said to be about the size of a dingo, though its legs were shorter and its tail long, and it was described by the blacks as being very savage. If pursued it climbed up the trees, where the natives did not dare follow it, and by gestures they explained to me how at such times it would growl and bite their hands. Rocky retreats were its most favourite habitat, and its principal food was said to be a little brown variety of wallaby common in Northern Queensland scrubs. Its flesh was not particularly appreciated by the blacks, and if they accidentally killed a yarri they gave it to their old women. In Western Queensland I heard much about an animal which seemed to me to be identical with the yarri here described, and a specimen was once nearly shot by an officer of the black police in the regions I was now visiting."

1871

The thirteen year old son of a police magistrate chased a striped 'cat' up a tree in 1871. It became aggressive when the boys dog growled, and it chased them home[19].

1920

In 1920, two men on horseback saw a Thylacoleo at Munna Creek.

"A large animal of the cat tribe standing about 20 yards [18 metres] away, astride of a very dead calf, glaring defiance at us and emitting what I can only describe as a growling whine ... he was nearly the size of a mastiff, of a dirty fawn colour, with a whitish belly and broad blackish tiger stripes. The head was round with prominent lynx-like ears, but unlike that feline there were a tail reaching to the ground and large pads."

The two men hit it with a whip and scared it off. It made movements as if it would return and attack, but ultimately left[20][21].

1940

In May or June 1940, Nigel and Charlie Tutt were hiking on Mount Stanley when they rounded a bend and saw a large cat sunning itself on a pine stump. They stopped about 20 feet away from it and noted that it was reddish, with dark-brown stripes all over its body and legs. It looked at them coolly for about twenty seconds and then bounded away[22].

1954

A man named Gamer was riding through the brush near Bidwell, Queensland, in 1954 when he surprised a large, gray cat with dark-orange stripes. He was struck by its savage nature and large fangs[23].

1967

In late 1967, an aggressive animal the size of a dog was shot by Carl Lentz. He intended to keep the carcass, but heavy flooding in the night caused him to skin it and leave the body[24].

1968

A Queensland Tiger spotted on Mount Bartle Frere in 1968 was described as having a round, broad head, a nose shorter and broader than a dog's and some of its teeth appeared to protrude out and upwards like tusks[25].

1969

Tweed Lion paper mache

The 'Tweed Lion'.

Scientist Gary Opit saw a Thylacoleo in 1969. He was alone, and got a clear view of the animal, which walked like a marsupial. He has seen Thylacoleo on multiple occasions since, and his encounters with the beast have stretched as far north as Mt Tamborine[26]. His brother John Opit has also seen Thylacoleo.

1982

In 1982 a leopard-sized creature with a cat-like gait and heavily striped tail was reported near Perth[27].

1983

Mike Jones ran across a black-striped, panther-sized animal feeding on a dead calf in the mountains near Mareeba, Queensland, in 1983[28].

1984

In 1984, a panther-sized striped cat-like animal was seen sitting in a tree devouring a sheep and also heard roaring near a creek at Daintree[29].

circa 1985

Around 1985, a man was driving along the coastal sandy track that runs just behind the beach at 2AM, returning home from a late night out when a black panther-like animal crossed the track right in front of his car.

He described it as being very heavily built, like a bear crossed with a panther & was positive from its appearance that it could only be a marsupial lion which he had read about in a book on Aussie prehistoric fauna, but which he didn't have too much interest in. It scared him with its powerful unconcerned attitude. It had a thickly furred curved tail.

He drove on and seconds later an emu, perhaps being hunted by the animal, run up from behind past the car, unusual for a diurnal bird, which further shocked him as he thought it was the big cat-like beast attacking his car[30].

1987

On May 30, 1987, Greg Calvert found tracks larger than a dingo’s near Hughenden, Queensland, and followed them for several hundred yards. They showed the grooming claws of a marsupial[31].

Also in 1987, a hunter near Hughenden was pursuing a dingo he had wounded when a large hay-coloured animal with black body stripes suddenly appeared and attacked and ate the dingo[32].

1995

In 1995, Goldsborough Valley resident "Wharfie" Mark Camplon was sitting on his verandah when his dog Rusty began to grow afraid of something unseen. He soon heard a deep growling.

Mr Camplon said people who thought he had been hitting the booze should go an spend some time in the valley.

"Once you are here, away from civilisation and all the noise and lights, it's easy to believe that a creature could live for years away from the eyes of man," he said. "You could lose an army up here, let alone a family of cats or something similar. Especially if they were well adapted to the area[33]."

In mid-September 1995, a dead female Queensland Tiger was allegedly found beside the Bruce Highway about 12.5 miles south of Cardwell. It was described it as the size of a small cattle dog, with a cat-like face, short pointed ears, large hindquarters and stripes near the chest from backbone down to belly. The distinctive stripes were regularly spaced on a dark tan background colour. The tail had a tiny white tip. Some of the dark brown hairs below the chest had black tips, formed four black stripes.

The remains were too mangled and decomposed for conclusive identification, and no testing was ever done, apparently[34].

circa 2000

Around 2000, a man was out shooting in Australia when he saw what appeared to be a big black cat. He looked at it through binoculars, and realised it had a wombat-like head. Opting not to shoot, he went over to it, but it was gone when he arrived at the tree it was standing under. Later, he realised that the animal had climbed the tree, and was there when he was searching below the tree, but refrained from attacking[35].

Animal X interviewed a man named Dennis Wright, who also claimed to have come close to shooting a Thylacoleo. He made no note of going to the tree, so it is unknown if this is the same person[36].

2002

A Thylacoleo was sighted in 2002 near a disused logging coop in Gilderoy. A family was driving near the coop, when a black Thylacoleo was seen. It ignored the eyewitnesses, and smelt like rotting flesh[37][38].

2005

A farmer, searching for a missing cow in 2005, found that it had been severely wounded by a broad-headed predator, present at the scene, that “seemed to have some marsupial-like attributes” being long-bodied, short-legged and long and thick in the tail. The creature had also killed the cow’s calf[39].

2007

Main article: Singleton Giant Quoll.

The Singleton Giant Quoll is almost universally speculated to be a Thylacoleo[40]. The ony difference between it and Thylacoleo is that the quoll had a longer muzzle. A $1000 reward has been offered by "Mike" for anyone who takes a photograph of the animal.

2008

In the December of 2008, a woman named Jennifer was driving through Castlereagh Hwy, near Pearson's Lookout between the towns of Capertee and Ilford, in a large truck. Whilst driving, she passed two dead animals together - a kangaroo, and another, unidentified animal akin to a lion cub. She described it as follows[41][42].

"The markings on the torso of the other animal were dark brown / black and the main colour was tan. The markings made me look closer and the carcass was intact. The ears were rounded, the head was stout and like a lion cub and the front paws were huge in comparison to it's body size. The back paws and tail were obscured because of the position it landed in after being run over. (probably feeding on the small roo). My first thoughts were of a small lion, but the dark marking's threw me. It was a thick set animal about 500 - 600mm long. For the rest of the trip to Sydney (2.75 hrs) I couldn't stop wondering what this thing was, and having told the story to several people, I still couldn't come up with a logical explanation."

2010

In 2010, a Thylacoleo allegedly ran across the road in front of a car, at extreme speed[43].

2012

In February of 2012, a woman was driving down a road in Nimbin at night when a large animal walked out in front of the car. It look like a lion, but had a striped flank[44].

Notes and references

Further cryptozoological reading

This section is incomplete. It requires expanding.