Where the wild things are. A brief history of thylacine and devil extinctions over the last 20,000 years

Speaker: Associate Professor Jeremy Austin

Location: 11:30 am to 12:30 pm in Building 6, Level C, Room 12

Thylacines (Tasmanian tigers, Thylacinus cynocephalus) and Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) were the only large marsupial carnivores to survive the late Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions in Australia. Both species were once widespread on the Australian mainland but are thought to have gone extinct there in the mid-Holocene. Apparently surviving only on the island of Tasmania, thylacines were hunted to extinction there by 1936, while devils are currently threatened with extinction by a contagious cancer. As a fifth-generation Tasmanian Jeremy has a long-standing interest in the history of both species. In his talk Jeremy will present a range of ancient DNA data and radiocarbon dates that address a number of long-standing questions about these enigmatic animals. Are thylacines extinct in Tasmania? Are thylacines and devils extinct on the mainland? What happened to thylacine and devil populations over the last 10,000 years that might explain their disappearance?

About Jeremy

Jeremy is an evolutionary biologist working in the fields of ancient DNA, molecular ecology and conservation genetics. He received his PhD in from the University of Tasmania in 1995 and has held postdoctoral research positions at the Natural History Museum, University of Queensland, Museum Victoria and the University of Adelaide. In 2011 he was awarded a prestigious Australian Research Council Future Fellowship and is now a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences, and Deputy Director of ACAD, at the University of Adelaide. Jeremy’s research uses ancient and modern DNA techniques to “travel through time” to understand the evolutionary history of living and extinct vertebrates; assess the impacts of past environmental change on animal populations; and provide valuable genetic data for conservation and management of threatened species.