Teaching Students About the Size of the Thylacine


The thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf, was a unique marsupial carnivore native to Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. It is now believed to be extinct, with the last known thylacine dying in captivity in 1936. Despite its disappearance, the thylacine remains an important subject for students to learn about due to its fascinating biology and the lessons it can teach us about conservation and ecosystem management.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the thylacine is its size and build. In order to educate students on this captivating creature, it’s essential to create engaging lesson plans that highlight this characteristic. The following step-by-step approach can be used by educators to effectively teach students about the size of this unique animal.

Step 1: Contextualize the Thylacine

Before diving into a discussion on size, give students an overview of what a thylacine was, where it lived, and its role in its ecosystem. This foundational knowledge will help students better appreciate and understand the importance of discussing the size of this extinct marsupial.

Step 2: Introduce Thylacine Size

Inform students that adult thylacines ranged in size from 100 to 130 centimeters (39-51 inches) in length and stood about 60 centimeters (24 inches) tall at the shoulder. They weighed between 15-30 kilograms (33-66 pounds). Highlight that females were generally smaller than males.

Step 3: Compare with Modern Animals

To better grasp the scale of thylacines, have students compare their size with modern animals they are familiar with. For example, explain that a fully grown thylacine was roughly as large as a medium-sized dog or could be compared to a small grey wolf. It is important to illustrate that, for a predator, the thylacine was relatively small compared to other extinct and extant carnivorous mammals.

Step 4: Discuss Adaptations Related to Size

Discuss how the thylacine’s size and body shape allowed it to be an effective predator. Touch on its long, muscular tail that provided balance for its slender, agile body. Encourage students to consider how these adaptations might have enabled the animal to better pursue prey and evade danger in their environment.

Step 5: Address the Role of Size in the Thylacine’s Extinction

While there were multiple factors contributing to the thylacine’s extinction, it’s important for students to understand that their size made them vulnerable to predators and hunters. Explain how hunting by European settlers, competition with dingoes, disease, and habitat destruction contributed to their decline and eventual extinction.

Step 6: Engage Students Through Activities

Provide engaging activities such as measuring out a life-size thylacine on the floor of your classroom or creating scale models of the animal using available materials. Encourage students to compare their own sizes with those of the thylacine, fostering a sense of connection with this extinct species.


By implementing this step-by-step approach in your lesson plans, you can effectively teach students about the significance of thylacine’s size and its impact on both its biology and historical context. This process not only increases student knowledge but also promotes critical thinking about the consequences of human actions on wildlife and ecosystems.

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