The wily dingo out-competed the much larger marsupial thylacine by being better built anatomically to resist the mechanical stresses associated with killing large prey, say Australian scientists.
Despite being armed with a more powerful and efficient bite and having larger energy needs than the dingo, the thylacine was restricted to eating relatively small prey while the dingo's stronger head and neck anatomy allowed it to subdue large prey as well.
Earlier studies had given ambiguous results regarding the size of prey favoured by the thylacine, and had suggested that changes in mainland Aboriginal culture may have driven its extinction 3,000 years ago in mainland Australia.
This new conclusion, published today in Proceedings B of the Royal Society, is based on sophisticated computer simulations revealing bite forces and stress patterns applying to dingo and thylacine skull specimens.
A team led by UNSW palaeontologist Stephen Wroe, along with Karen Moreno (UNSW) and University of Newcastle colleagues, Colin McHenry and Philip Clausen, conducted the research.
The simulations illustrate mechanical stresses and strains applying to the skull, jaw, teeth and cranial muscles of both animals across a range of biting, tearing and shaking motions that simulate the impact of controlling and killing a struggling prey.
Engineers use the same methodology known as finite element analysis to predict distortion and failure in load-bearing materials, such as metal in the body and wings of an airplane.
The researchers applied this technique to test the hypothesis that the dingo would have substantially overlapped with the thylacine regarding its choice of favourite prey.
Their results demonstrated considerable similarity between the two species, but also informative differences.
The thylacine has a greater bite force than the dingo but its skull becomes more stressed than the dingo under condi
|Contact: Dr. Stephen Wroe|
University of New South Wales