A catalogue of fossil sites containing the thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus)

The putative extinction of the thylacine (or Tasmanian tiger) means that no further historical specimens are likely to be available to science, with the obvious exception of the potential for newly discovered specimens1. Unless the species is rediscovered, or cloning is both a) successful and b) produces animals that are not taxonomically distinct from the Tasmanian type population. Both of which are extremely unlikely. On the other hand fossil and subfossil material is both abundant and still waiting to be collected. Moreover, favourable preservation conditions mean that further soft tissue specimens potentially await discovery. At present at least three such specimens have been discovered. The first being a small patch of dried skin attached to the humerus and clavicle of a mostly complete skeleton found in Murra-El-Elevyn Cave in December 1963 or January 1964 by Mr N. Campbell (Partridge, 1967). The second being a complete mummified animal ("Old Hairy") found on 23 October 1966 by Jacky and David Lowry in what would later be known as Thylacine Hole (Lowry & Lowry, 1967). Lastly, a mummified head was found in Murra-El-Elevyn Cave in 1990, the site of the first discovery of dried thylacine tissue.

Collection bias is certainly evident in the known fossil sites that contain thylacine remains, even though all mainland Australian states and territories are represented. Most fossil sites are from the southern half of the continent. This may or may not impact the species' inferred extinction chronology, as there is the potential for northern Australia to have acted as a refugium for the species. Where it may have survived far longer than in areas which have radiocarbon dates associated with them. Future infrastructure may make it logistically and economically more viable to carry out palaeontological excavations in relatively harsh and isolated environs that have so far contributed little to our understanding of the species' prehistoric trends.

While the northern Australian thylacine population is relatively little known, the situation in New Guinea is even less understood. A handful of reports of Thylacinus remains have been made in the literature since the first in 1963 (van Deusen, 1963). Most of these are in obscure, hard to find or otherwise virtually inaccessible publications. As a result the current cataloguing effort is virtually reduced to merely listing references to New Guinea thylacines, as I have never attended university and thus do not have access to many of the research avenues open to scientists.

1 The most recent such find is a remarkably well preserved skin exported to New Zealand and lain unrecognized for decades. It has now been purchased by the National Museum of Australia (press release).


Important caveats

The radiocarbon dates given are those reported at the time in the literature cited. Many of these older dates are unreliable and are therefore only given for historical reasons. This includes those dates repeated through citation by later authors past the date at which radiocarbon dates became more reliable (viz. fixation of the carbon curve).

The catalogue itself is very incomplete, and is very much a work in progress. The reference list at the end is almost complete for 20th-21st century publications, but I have yet to go through every paper and add the relevant information regarding fossil sites, their location, number and age of specimens, etc.


Australian Capital Territory



New Guinea


Kiowa Rockshelter

References: van Deusen, 1963; Bulmer, 1964


Nombe Rockshelter

References: Mountain, 1990, 1991, (1993?); Prideaux et al., 2022


New South Wales


Lake Menindee

References: Woodburne, 1967


Wee Jasper 99 (WJ99)

References: Cathles et al., 2008; Theden-Ringl, 2018; Theden-Ringl et al., 2018


Wellington Caves

Specimens: BMNH Geol. M/10800, BMNH Geol. M/10801 (type specimens of T. spelaeus)

References: Ride, 1964



References: Mulvaney, 1975 (cited by Howlett, 2012)


Yarrangobilly or Cooleman

References: Spate, 2006 (cited in Spate & Baker, 2018)


Northern Territory






Specimens: QM F.730 (type specimen of T. rostralis)

References: Ride, 1964


Gowrie Creek

Specimens: BMNH 35973 (previously attributed to T. rostralis?)

References: Ride, 1964


King's Creek, Clifton

Specimens: QM F.3742 (previously attributed to T. rostralis?)

References: Ride, 1964



South Australia


Allen's Cave

References: Walshe, 1994


Black’s Point Sinkhole, Venus Bay

Age: 3030±60 BP (associated) (McDowell, 1997)

References: Medlin, 1996; McDowell, 1997


Devon Downs Shelter

References: Smith, 1982


Fromm's Landing

References: Macintosh, 1964; Macintosh & Mahoney, 1964; Mulvaney et al., 1964; Wakefield, 1964b; Archer, 1971


Kangaroo Island

135.4 ± 5.9 kya (Boar Beach locality), fossilized footprints [Camens et al., 2017]
≥ 28.2±2.7 kya (Rocky River homestead locality), osteological specimen [Wells et al., 2006]
14.25-13.8 kya (Kelly Hill Cave K1-P2 L7E locality), osteological specimen [Adams et al., 2016]




Central Highlands


Warragarra rockshelter

References: McWilliams et al. (1999)



Cave system near Lune River:

Anonymous. (1985). Tasmanian Tiger bones 'fully protected'. The Canberra Times, Friday, 14 June, p. 6.


Bass Strait islands

Cave Bay Cave (Hunter Island)

Specimens: a single thylacine molar tooth

Age: dated to roughly 15,400 BP (Bowdler, 1984)

Notes: As far as I am aware, this single tooth is the only record, prehistoric or modern, of the thylacine on the Bass Strait islands

References: Bowdler, 1984





Cloggs Cave

References: Flood, 1973, 1974; Delannoy et al., 2020


McEachern's Cave

References: Wakefield, 1967


Nelson Bay

References: Gerdtz & Archbold, 2003; Piper, 2007


Western Australia


Avon Region



Eucla Division

Capstan Cave (N50)

Specimens: WAM 67.11.37

References: Lowry, 1972


Horseshoe Cave

Specimens: WAM 72.1.512; WAM 72.1.307 (Archer, 1974)

References: Archer, 1974 (+ 1972?)


Murra-El-Elevyn Cave (N47)1

Specimens: WAM 64.8.1 (soft tissue present around humerus and clavicle); mummified head discovered in 1990 [citation?]

Age: WAM 64.8.1 (3,280 ± 90 yBP (Partridge, 1967))

Notes: 1 Formerly known as Cocklebiddy Three Mile Cave

References: Gasking, 1965; Partridge, 1967


Roaches Rest Cave (N58)

Specimens: WAM 67.3.21 (Juvenile)

Age: no dating seems to have occurred.

References: Lowry, 1972


Thylacine Hole (N63)

Specimens: WAM F6353 (nearly complete skeleton); F6354 (nearly complete skeleton); F6355 (nearly complete skeleton); F6356 (partial skeleton, lacks teeth); F6357 (old animal, nearly complete skeleton); F6358 (juvenile; nearly complete skeleton); F63601 (pelvis and part of vertebral column only); F6364 (mummified carcass) (see Lowry, 1972).

Age: WAM F6364 (4,650 ± 104 yBP, 4,550 ± 112, 4,650 ± 153 yBP; all dates from (Lowry & Merrilees, 1969))

A mummified dingo found roughly 200 feet closer to the entrace was dated at 2,200 ± 96 yBP (Lowry & Merrilees, 1969). A rabbit carcass was subsequently dated at 180 ± 76 yBP as a "check" on the two previously mentioned dated specimens (Merrilees, 1970).

Vegetation: see (Ingram, 1969)

Comments: All individuals appear to have fallen about 12 metres to the cave floor, although only one individual (F6355) has broken bones, possibly postmortem injuries.

Notes: 1 Disturbed by water wash (Lowry, 1972), which might explain paucity of remains.

References: Dunkley & Wigley, 1967; Lowry & Lowry, 1967; Lowry & Merrilees, 1969; Merrilees, 1970; Lowry, 1972


Webbs Cave (N132)

Specimens: WAM 70.7.52 (Cook, 1963)

Comments: Found in a Tasmanian devil coprolite

References: Cook, 1963,1966; Lowry, 1972


Unknown caves

References: Milner et al., 2017


Gascoyne Region

Mandu Mandu Creek Rockshelter

Comments: "The jaws of a the base of Square C1"

References: Morse, 1993a; Baynes & Jones, 1993


Monajee Cave (CR21/C-21) [ex. WAM Cave 6]

Specimens: "several vertebrae and a single calcanum" (Kendrick & Porter, 1973)

References: Kendrick & Porter, 1973


Pilgonaman Creek Rockshelter

References: Morse, 1993b


Kimberley Division

Tunnel Creek Cave

Specimens: Archer, 1974: WA 71.12.119 (proximal end, humerus)

Age: 0±80 14C BP (Archer, 1974; since rejected), 4074±80 14C BP, 4100±67 14C BP

References: Archer, 1974; Gale, 2009


Widgingarri Shelter 1

Specimens: two fragments

References: O'Connor, 1999:90


Windjana Gorge Water Tank Shelter

Specimens: partial molar from Spit 16

References: O'Connor et al., 2008:78 



Northern Agricultural Region

Geographical extent

"The NAR runs from Gingin in the south to Kalbarri in the north, east to Mullewa, Perenjori and Kalannie along the Local Government Area (LGA) boundaries." (source)


"...a skull was collected recently in a Moore River cave, north of Perth (W.A.)."

(Troughton, 1973:44)


Fossil sites

Caladenia Cave

"Three specimens of Thylacinus cynocephalus were recovered from the excavation, each at different depths. The chronologically youngest specimen, a right metatarsal III of Thylacinus cynocephalus (WA Museum vertebrate palaeontological collection catalogue number 13.11.364) has an associated charcoal age of 3254–2925 cal. BP. All Thylacinus specimens were originally identifed by Merrilees and confirmed by Thorn with Museum comparative material." (Thorn et al., 2017)


Mystery Cave (J-6)

"Thylacine bones {(Thylacinus cynocephalus; 2 individual) jaw found; P. Adamson, August 1986 [L. Hatcher, 1986] & remaining skeleton plus second incomplete skeleton; M. Simpson & L. Hatcher, October 1986 [L. Hatcher, conf.; A. Baynes]} have been recorded from this cave (Hatcher, Unpublished records)." (Susac, 2007:26)


Pretty Cave (SH-9)

Remains discovered by R. Howlett on 19-23 February, 1961 (Bridge, 1963a).


Wedges Cave (SH-14)

Molar (Bridge, 1963a)


Yellabidde Cave (E-30)

(Monks, 2016; Monks et al., 2016; Monks, 2018)

"Four Thylacinus specimens were identified, including one adult molar and molars from two young  juveniles (one of which was probably pouch young), all in sediments dating to >5,000 years BP. The presence of the remains of juvenile as well as adult thylacinesin the site suggests that Yellabidde Cave was occasionally used as a den site." (p. 154)

"Thylacine cranial and dental material was recovered from YC...and included edentulous dentary fragments and isolated molars, including one apparently unerupted molar (M1) cap from a juvenile animal, possibly pouch young." (p. 280)

(both quotes: Monks, 2018)


Unknown cave (near Stockyard Cave (E-3))

Bones found by Harry Butler (Bridge, 1963b).


Need to find relevant caves

Specimens: WAM 61.2.19-23; WAM 63.7.7 (both mentioned by Lowry, 1972)


Perth Region 

Rottnest Island

"In 2011 we surveyed the Tamala Limestone on Rottnest Island that revealed vertebrate trace fossils at 45 different locations around the edge of the island. Traces were exposed on fallen slabs as moulds, on underhangs as casts and in cliff faces as cross-sections... A wide variety of other traces indicate a fauna potentially including larger macropodids, quolls, Tasmanian devils, thylacines, wombats, rodents, emus, oystercatchers and invertebrates... OSL dating of the host sediments at four locations suggests that most of the sediments were deposited during the Last Glacial Maximum (17–24 ka). This is of particular interest as the coast would have been 15–20 km west at this time, indicating extensive dunefields extending > 20 km inland." (Camens et al., 2021:13)


Thylacine Cave1 (YN-52/Yn52)

Specimens: WA 72.1.1148

Age: 3090±90 14C BP (Archer, 1974)

References: Archer, 1974; Murray, 1998

1 Formerly called Murray's Cave (see Murray, 1998), then Murray Cave (Archer, 1974).


Unknown cave (now destroyed) (near Lake Neerabup)

"And in this, at the base of this solution pipe we found a Thylacine skull laying on the surface outside. So it obviously had been in that cave before they destroyed the cave."

(Murray, 1998)


Pilbara Region
Barrow Island


Montebello Islands

Morgan's Cave (Campbell Island)

References: Piper & Veth, 2021


South West Corner

I take this to encompass Mandurah in the north, southeast to Albany. An idiosyncratic but useful delineation.


Devil's Lair

Seven teeth from 5 individuals (Balme et al., 1978)


Jewel Cave

At least one skeleton, plus footprints (source; source)


Madura Cave

References: Milham & Thompson, 1976; Lundelius & Turnbull, 1989:tbl. 21


Mammoth Cave

Specimens: WAM 61.2.26, 61.2.27, 61.2.28 (all Lowry, 1972)

References: Lundelius, 1960; Merrilees, 1968; Lowry, 1972


Skull Cave

Age: c.17,500yBP (Porter, 1979)

References: Howlett, 1960, 2012; Porter, 1979


Yallingup Cave

References: Merrilees, 1979a




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Merrilees, Duncan. (1979a). Prehistoric rock wallabies (Marsupialia, Macropodidae, Petrogale) in the far south-west of Western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 61(3): 73-96. [According to J. H. Calaby: "Appendix 1: Canis and Thylacinus in Yallingup Cave"]

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Mulvaney, D. J., Lawton, G. H., Twidale, C. R., Macintosh, N. W. G., Mahoney, J. A. and Wakefield, N. A. (1964). Archaeological excavation of Rock Shelter No. 6. Fromm's Landing, South Australia. Proc. Roy. Soc. Vict. 77: 479-516.

Muirhead, J. and Archer, Michael. (1990). Nimbacinus dicksoni, a plesiomorphic thylacine (Marsupialia: Thylacinidae) from Tertiary deposits of Queensland and the Northern Territory. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum (Proceedings of the De Vis Symposium) 28(1): 203-221.

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Partridge, Jeanette. (1967). A 3,300 year old thylacine (Marsupialia: Thylacinidae) from the Nullabor Plain, Western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 50(2): 57-59.

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Pledge, N. (1974). Excavations in the Henschke's Quarry Cave, Naracoorte - a late Pleistocene fauna. Paper presented at the 15th General Meeting of the Australian Mammal Society, Monash University: Melbourner, May 1974.

Pledge, Neville S. (1990). The Upper Fossil Fauna of the Henschke Fossil Cave, Naracoorte, South Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum (Proceedings of the De Vis Symposium) 28(1): 247-262.

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Price, Gilbert J. and Sobbe, I. H. (2005). Pleistocene palaeoecology and environmental change on the Darling Downs, southeastern Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 51(1): 171-201. [subfossil remains from Darling Downs, Queensland]

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Price GJ, J-X Zhao, Y-X Feng, SA Hocknull Bernard N. Cooke b, Scott A. Hocknull e, Ian H. Sobbe. (2009). New U/Th ages for Pleistocene megafauna deposits of southeastern Queensland, Australia. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 34: 190-197.

G. J. Prideaux. 2004. Systematics and evolution of the sthenurine kangaroos. In S. W. Awramik, A. Barnosky, J. A. Doyle, M. L. Droser, P. M. Sadler (eds.), UC Publications in Geological Sciences, University of California Press 146:1-623.

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Prideaux, G.J., J. A. Long, L. K. Ayliffe, J. C. Hellstrom, B. Pillans, W. E. Boles, M. N. Hutchinson, R. G. Roberts, M. L. Cupper, L. J. Arnold, P. D. Devine, and N. M. Warburton. (2007a). An arid-adapted middle Pleistocene vertebrate fauna from south-central Australia, Nature 445: 422-425.

Prideaux, G. J., R. G. Roberts, D. Megirian, K. E. Westaway, J. C. Hellstrom, and J. M. Olley. (2007b). Mammalian responses to Pleistocene climate change in southeastern Australia. Geology 35(1): 33-36.

Prideaux, Gavin J., Kerr, I. A. R., van Zoelen, J. D., Grun, R., van der Kaars, S. et al. (2022). Re-evaluating the evidence for late-surviving megafauna at Nombe rockshelter in the New Guinea highlands. Archaeology in Oceania 57(3): 223-248.

Reed, E. H. (2006). In Situ Taphonomic Investigation of Pleistocene Large Mammal Bone Deposits from The Ossuaries, Victoria Fossil Cave, Naracoorte, South Australia. Helictite 39(1): 5-15.

Reed, Elizabeth H. and Bourne, Steven J. (2000). Pleistocene fossil vertebrate sites of the south east region of South Australia. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 124(2): 61-90.

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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Ride, W. D. L. (1964). A review of Australian fossil marsupials. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 47(4): 97-131.

Robson, S. K. and Young, W. G. (1990). A comparison of tooth microwear between an extinct marsupial predator, the Tasmanian tiger Thylacinus cynocephalus (Thylacynidae) and an extant scavenger, the Tasmanian devil Sarcophilus harrisii (Dasyuridae: Marsupialia). Australian Journal of Zoology 37(5): 575-589.

Rovinsky, Douglass S., Evans, A. R. and Adams, J. W. (2019). The pre-Pleistocene fossil thylacinids (Dasyuromorphia: Thylacinidae) and the evolutionary context of the modern thylacine. PeerJ 7:e7457.

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Smith, M. A. (1982). Devon Downs reconsidered: changes in site use at a lower Murray Valley rockshelter. Archaeology in Oceania 17: 109-116. [First page]

Smith, Meredith J. (1972). Small fossil vertebrates from Victoria Cave, Naracoorte. South Australia. II. Peramelidae, Thylacinidae and Dasyuridae (Marsupialia). Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 96(3): 125-137.

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Susac, Robert A. J. (2007). A Literature Review & Report of Karst Biodiversity, Palaeontology & Hydrology in the Northern Agricultural Region, Western Australia. Unpublished report to the Department of Environment and Conservation. 82 pp.

Sutton, Alice, Mountain, Mary-Jane, Aplin, Ken, Bulmer, Susan and Denham, Tim. (2009). Archaeozoological records for the highlands of New Guinea: a review of current evidence. Australian Archaeology 69: 41-58.

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Wakefield, N. A. (1963b). Mammal sub-fossils from near Portland, Victoria. The Victorian Naturalist 80(2): 39-45.

Wakefield, Norman Arthur. (1964a). Recent mammalian sub-fossils of the basalt plains of Victoria. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria. New series 77(2): 419-425.

Wakefield, N. A. (1964b). Mammal remains. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria (N.S.) 77: 494-498.

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Wells, R. T., R. Grün, J. Sullivan, M. S. Forbes, S. N. Dalgairns, E. A. Bestland, E. J. Rhodes, K. E.Walshe, N. A. Spooner, and S. Eggins. (2006). Late Pleistocene megafauna site at Black Creek Swamp, Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Alcheringa Special Issue 1: 367-387.

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Wroe, Stephen. (2001). Maximucinus muirheadae, gen. et sp. nov. (Thylacinidae: Marsupialia), from the Miocene of Riversleigh, north–western Queensland, with estimates of body weights for fossil thylacinids. Australian Journal of Zoology 49: 603-614.

Wroe, Stephen. (2003). Australian marsupial carnivores: Recent advances in palaeontology, pp. 102-123. In: Jones, Menna, Dickman, Chris and Archer, Michael (eds.). Predators with Pouches: The Biology of Marsupial Carnivores. Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing.

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Wylie, John. (2013). Scotchtown Cave North-west Tasmania. Caves Australia 195: 20-25.

Wylie, John. (2018). Discovery of Tasmania’s first cave. Caves Australia 206: 5-11.

Yates, Adam M. (2015). Thylacinus (Marsupialia: Thylacinidae) from the Mio-Pliocene boundary and the diversity of Late Neogene thylacinids in Australia. PeerJ 3: e931.


Appendix 1: Publications that report a number of previous dates

Archer, Michael. (1974). New information about the Quaternary distribution of the Thylacine (Marsupialia: Thylacinidae) in Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 57(2): 43-50.

Gale, S. J. (2009). Event chronostratigraphy: A high-resolution tool for dating the recent past. Quaternary Geochronology 4(5): 391-399. [Abstract]

Howlett, Roger M. (2012). Discovery and Exploration of Thylacine Cave, Nullarbor WA.  Caves Australia 189: 17-19.