why hyenas are cats, not dogs, and thylacines are both, and neither

and other weirdness of evolution…

A question about cats and their level of carnivoressness (more carnivorous than dogs, but they eat some plants) led to me searching for the family tree of carnivores…

and how hyenas aren’t actually dogs at all…


Bears, raccoons, pinnipeds (seals etc), skunks, red pandas and mustelids (weasels, otters) are all on the canine side…

The cat side contains felines, fossas, civets, genets, mongooses (which look like the canine side’s mustelids), linsangs, some extinct stuff and…


Image result for hyenas

This fabulous beast…

Image result for thylacine

…looks a bit like a hyena here, or perhaps like an oddly marked yellow dog…

Image result for thylacine

Image result for dogs

in fact it looks more like a dog than some dogs…

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It kinds of resembles some of the characters found on the feline side of the family tree too…

Image result for linsang


Image result for civets


Image result for civets

civets (there are various species)

But back to stripey butt dog…

This is one of the more famous photos of one…

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Dogs really can’t do that.

But these can…

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Image result for opossum

The Virginia possum has fifty teeth, more than any other north American mammal. It is a gentle creature with a top speed of four miles an hour, practically immune to rabies, and easy to tame (I raised a few for wildlife rehabbers). They’re omnivorous, and the only marsupial in north America.

The lovely thylacine is not anywhere on the dog/cat carnivora tree because it is on the possum tree.

Image result for thylacine

Sadly, it appears to be extinct. One of the stupider things humans have perpetrated on the natural world.

Of course, it may be hiding. A scientist studying a near relative of the thylacine, the Tas Devil, had been studying, live trapping, radio collaring Tas Devils for fifteen years in an area the size of West Virginia. Despite this deep involvement, she had seen only a few in the wild (about six as I remember).

You can indulge your quest for the hidden here…


…their logo appears to be a coelacanth…


it was believed to be extinct until one was found in 1938… just after the last thylacine died in a zoo.

Also there is this…


Which is…

Image result for okapi

It’s a horse, it’s a zebra… it’s a giraffe…

It’s an okapi, a giraffe relative,, not discovered until the late 1800s.

Then there’s this kind of thing…

Image result for thylacine sightings

Is that clever Photoshop? Or real?

And this fascinating book…


and this… a dissection of one set of possible thylacine photos…


Here’s an account of early attempts to keep thylacines as pets… it worked quite well!


I’ve raised and handled Virginia Opossums for a wildlife rehabber, and they get quite tame. The thylacine is a predator, but seemed to react much as a dog would to domesticity.

In all seriousness, thylacines seem to me, from Paddle and Bailey’s accounts, to blend the best of both cats and dogs. They are affectionate and perceptive, effective sentries which relate well with their owners but still cast warning at strangers. At the same time they seem almost catlike in being particular, patient and considered in their movements. I for one, no longer respond to the question “are you a dog person or a cat person?” with a predictable answer: “Neither – I love thylacines!”






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