Thylacoleo carnifex Owen, 1859

Marsupial lion



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Thylacoleo oweni McCoy, 1876:9; Thylacopardus australis Owen, 1888:99; Mylodon australis Krefft, 1870; Thylacoleo robustus Krefft, 1872a


Synonymy follows (Anderson, 1929).


Conservation Status


Last record: 45.3 ± 0.85 ka Cal BP (Pate et al., 2002)


The marsupial lion was only a distant relative of the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus). The most recent dates so far found suggest that it survived up until at least 46,000 BC (Roberts et al. 2001; Pate et al., 2002). Akerman (1998, 2009) and Akerman and Willing (2009) have reported three candidate rock art images which may depict Thylacoleo. However, these claims have been described as "absurd" by (Bednarik, 2013:484) on the basis of the discrepancy between the latest known survival of Thylacoleo and the young age of the art, as well as the lack of fossils of Thylacoleo from the regions of the Kimberley and Arnhem Land.





Anatomy & Morphology

It weighed an estimated 110kg (Johnson, 2006:20).


Biology & Ecology

It was a carnivore (Johnson, 2006:20).



WAM 02.7.1
QMF44642 ("I1")
F51287 (Dawson, 1985:66)
F4664 (Dawson, 1985:66)
F18666 (Dawson, 1985:66)

SAM P16571 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

SAM P16723 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

SAM  P16732 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

SAM P16731 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

SAM P16730 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

SAM P16717 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

SAM P28173 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

SAM P20804 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

SAM P45886 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

SAM P12384 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

SAM P12784 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

SAM P16714 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

SAMP30146 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

SAM P28182 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

SAM P22761 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

SAM P22793 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

FU 119 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)

FU 120 (Beck et al., 2022:SM32)





From roughly 6:00:



Original scientific description:

Owen, R. (1858). Odontology, pp. 407-484. In: The Encyclopaedia Britannica, or dictionary of arts, sciences, and general literature. 8th ed. Vol. 16. Edinburgh, Adam and Charles Black.


Other references:

Akerman, Kim. (1998). A Rock Painting, Possibly of the Now Extinct Marsupial Thylacoleo (Marsupial Lion), from the North Kimberley, Western Australia. Beagle: The Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 14: 117-121.

Akerman, Kim. (2009). Interaction between humans and megafauna depicted in Australian rock art? Antiquity 83(322).

Akerman, Kim and Willing, Tim. (2009). An ancient rock painting of a marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex, from the Kimberly, Western Australia. Antiquity 83(319).

Albert, Victor A. (1987). A Bungle in the Jungle, or, Why Specialization Is Important in Cryptozoology. Cryptozoology 6: 119-120.

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Brisbane Courier, 1870's

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Reed, Elizabeth H. and Bourne, Steven J. (2009). Pleistocene Fossil Vertebrate Sites of the South East Region of South Australia II. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 133(1): 30-40.

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Tedford, R. H., and R. T. Wells. 1990. Pleistocene deposits and fossil vertebrates from the Dead Heart of Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 28: 263-284.

Troughton, Ellis Le Geyt. (1946). Furred Animals of Australia. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. 376 pp.

Troughton, Ellis Le Geyt. (1947). Furred Animals of Australia. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1947. [pp. 48-50]

Turney, Chris S. M., Flannery, Timothy F., Roberts, Richard G., Reid, Craig, Fifield, L. Keith, Higham, Tom F. G., Jacobs, Zenobia, Kemp, Noel, Colhoun, Eric A., Kalin, Robert M. and Ogle, Neil. (2008). Late-surviving megafauna in Tasmania, Australia, implicate human involvement in their extinction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 105(34): 12150-12153.

Van Huet, Sanja. (1999). The taphonomy of the Lancefield swamp megafaunal accumulation, Lancefield, Victoria. In: Baynes, Alexander and Long, John A. (eds.). Papers in vertebrate palaeontology. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 57: 331-340.

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Wakefield, Norman A. (1967). Preliminary report on McEachern's Cave, S.W. Victoria. The Victorian Naturalist 84(12): 363-383.

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Wells, Rod T. and Camens, A. B. (2018). New skeletal material sheds light on the palaeobiology of the Pleistocene marsupial carnivore, Thylacoleo carnifex. PLoS ONE 13(12): e0208020.

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Wells, Rod T., Moriarty, K. and Williams, D. L. G. (1984). The fossil vertebrate deposits of Victoria Fossil Cave Naracoorte: an introduction to the geology and fauna. The Australian Zoologist 21(4): 305-333.

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Wright, Dennis. (2017). Thylacoleo Lives. Self published. 147 pp.

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Psychic Australian November 1976 [author? volume? pagination?]



Since the term 'cryptozoology' should be rejected (viz. semantic polyphyly), we need a suitable nominal replacement. I suggest agnozoology, which is etymologically the study of unidentified creatures: agnostos (unidentified) + zoo (creature) + logia (study). This renders the field as strictly concerned with taxonomic diagnosis and assignation, and not with unrelated issues such as "out of place" animals. The latter is the subject of conservation biology, since it concerns the global population size of animals. Even if there are multiple candidates1.

This does not have to rob one of the beloved notion of a 'cryptid', as something like 'agnostid' is neither likely to catch on nor demanded by the etymological replacement. It does however mean that 'cryptid' is not fully subsumed under agnozoology. The term 'cryptid' is semantically broader, and hence there are cryptids outside of agnozoology. For example, out of place animals.

1 An important clarification needs to be made here. It is perfectly possible that each of these candidates has not been formally described in the scientific literature. This is because taxonomic diagnosis is primitive, and formal description is not. Most obviously, formal description does not entail taxonomic validity. But more importantly, the diagnosis of a new species is not contingent upon publication. Otherwise we would have an impossible situation. No diagnosis until publication, but then no diagnosis to publish in the first place.


Striped, stocky and still surviving?

There are several cryptids which possibly find their true idenitites in Thylacoleo, or at least the thylacoleonid family in general (Wakaleo, etc.). These include the Queensland tiger, the striped marsupial cat and the aboriginal yarri. Descriptions vary, with some being general enough to be interpreted as being consistent with that of the thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) (e.g. Naish, 2002). However, other descriptions are seemingly non-thylacine like, such as those of the animal being essentially a 'quoll on steroids'.

Healy & Cropper (1994:102) mention that the earliest possible European report ('tiger') is from Cardwell, Queensland in 1864, however the reportee was a particularly disreputable bullock driver in the employ of W. T. Scott. Either because of the reluctance to accept his report, or because they are simply unaware of it, most authors cite the first European encounter (1871?) as being that of the 13 year old son of police magistrate Brinsley G. Sheridan:

"In a letter addressed to Mr. Sclater [published 1871 in the Proceedings of the zoological Society of London], Mr. B. G. Sheridan, of Cardwell (Queensland), states, in fact, that his son, a boy of 13, who was accustomed to run the woods like an old hunter, was out one day accompanied by a small terrier, when he saw the latter obtain a scent and follow it up with eagerness. Curious to know what game he had to do with, the boy ran after his dog, and found himself face to face with an animal of the size of a dingo dog, with a round head like that of a cat, with a long tail, and with a body striped with yellow and black, and which was crouching in the high grass at about a mile from the coast. The dog and the savage beast soon grappled, and the boy, in order to aid his companion, tried to kill the enemy with a pistol shot, but having merely succeeded in wounding and rendering it more furious, he judged it prudent to beat a retreat." (Anonymous, 1890)

While this remains the earliest known European report that isn't dismissed on the basis of the reputation of the alleged witness, I have discovered on Trove (26 April 2019) an extremely tantalising description that could significantly extend the reports both geographically and temporally:

"We are informed that the tiger cat of the stations in the interior is twice the size of the specimen in question [i.e. 18-inch tail], and striped like the largest variety of the feline race. The striped tiger cat is said to be a formidable enemy to sheep." (Anonymous, 1868)



Anoynmous. (1868). ['A fine specimen of the native tiger cat...']. The Herald (Melbourne), Tuesday, 16 June, p. 2. [bottom of second-last column]

Anonymous. (1890). The dog-headed opossum. Leader (Melbourne), Saturday, 26 April, p. 8.

Anonymous. (1897). A native tiger. The Horsham Times, Friday, 28 May, p. 4

Author?. (2003). Qld: mysterious creature roams Cape York". Australian Associated Press General News, 2 July.

Chapple, P. (2000). Mystery animals of Australia: a brief overview. Unpublished report of Rare Fauna Research Association (Monbulk, Victoria).

Healy, Tony and Cropper, Paul. (1994). Out of the Shadows: Mystery Animals of Australia. Ironbark (Chippendale, Australia).

Heuvelmans, Bernard (1995) [1958]. On the Track of Unknown Animals. (translated from the French by Richard Garnett, drawings by Alika Lindbergh, introduction by Gerald Durrell). London & New York : Kegan Paul International.

"Highlands.". (1937). Queensland's Marsupial Tiger. In: "Wolves, Tigers and Devils": Australia's Flesh-Eating Marsupials. Sydney Mail, Wednesday, 23 June, p. 44.

Le Souef, A. S. and Burrell, Harry. (1926). The Wild Animals of Australasia: Embracing the Mammals of New Guinea and the Nearer Pacific Islands: With a Chapter on the Bats of Australia and New Guinea by Ellis Le G. Troughton (Zoologist Australian Museum Sydney). Sydney: G.G. Harrap. 388 pp. [pp. 329-332]

Macdonald, Donald. (1929). Bush Notes. The Australasian, Saturday, 8 June, p. 50. ["As for reports which occasionally drift in"]

Naish, Darren. (2002). Downfall of the Yarri, or Will the real Thylacoleo please stand up? Fortean Times, available at: [accessed 27 April 2019]

Naish, Darren. (2010). Rilla Martin's 1964 photo of the 'Ozenkadnook tiger'. Blog post at Tetrapod Zoology (2nd version), 18 August, available at:

Naish, Darren. (2017). The Ozenkadnook Tiger Photo Revealed as a Hoax. Blog Post at Tetrapod Zoology (3rd edition), 29 March, available at:

Shuker, Karl P. N. (1989). Mystery Cats of the World: From Blue Tigers to Exmoor Beasts. London: Robert Hale. 256 pp.

Troughton, Ellis Le Geyt. (1965). Furred Animals of Australia, 8th edition. Sydney: Angus & Robertson. 376 pp.

Williams, M. & Lang, R. 2010. Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers. Strange Nation (Hazelbrook, Australia).


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