While anecdotal accounts exist in the literature of epidemic disease as a significant factor in recent mammalian extinctions, harder data has not previously been presented. The statistics from the deliberate killing of thylacines as a pest species support contemporary records at the turn of the twentieth century, of an epidemic disease in thylacines and other marsupi-carnivores. For the first time, detailed symptoms and statistics of the disease are presented, as recorded by museum staff, and zoological-garden curators and veterinarians. It is argued that the effects of the disease in captivity, which more than halved thylacine longevity, and preferentially affected juveniles, are conformable with the expression of the disease recorded amongst wild thylacines, and demand a recognition of the importance of this disease as a major factor in the thylacine's recent extinction, and its consideration as an influential factor on the distribution and population dynamics of extant marsupi-carnivores. It also practically demonstrates the obvious potential for disease to have been involved in megafaunal extinctions in the past.
The thylacine's last straw: epidemic disease in a recent mammalian extinction
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Robert Paddle; The thylacine's last straw: epidemic disease in a recent mammalian extinction. Australian Zoologist 1 January 2012; 36 (1): 75–92. doi: https://doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2012.008
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