Australian Museum researchers and Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife have discovered a new link between the elusive Drop Bear and the extinction of the Tasmanian Tiger.
During excavations of a section of walking track in the Tarkine region of Tasmania last month, Parks & Wildlife rangers discovered a Drop Bear skull fragment. After sending the skull fragment to the Australian Museum for carbon dating, they discovered that it was less than 100 years old. Despite frequent sightings and even attacks on the mainland, the Drop Bear (Thylarctos plummetus) has long been thought to have become extinct in Tasmania around 1,000 years ago after succumbing to a disease similar to the facial tumour disease currently affecting the Tasmanian Devil population.
The discovery wasn’t restricted to the Drop Bear fragment, though. Workers also discovered segments of a Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) skeleton, dating to around the same period. On several of these bones were found deep scratch marks, thought to have been made by a predator’s teeth. The Tasmanian Tiger didn’t have any known predators (other than man) which has led to a theory that the Drop Bear was, in fact, a predator of the Tasmanian Tiger and possibly contributed to its extinction.
Further studies of both fossils are underway at the Australian Museum and a paper will be released later this year with their findings.
UPDATE: This is, of course, an April Fool 🙂 (posted 1st April, 2014)