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Tasmanian Tiger Back On the Prowl? Not So Fast

A video purporting to show evidence of a thought-to-be-extinct Tasmanian tiger is making the rounds on the Web again, suggesting the large carnivorous marsupial is alive.

The nine-second YouTube clip, which appeared on Mongabay.com yesterday (Nov. 16), claims to show a live Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, in footage captured in 2009. Scientists are unconvinced by the video, which originally surfaced last year.

"In my opinion, the video clearly shows a red fox running across the paddock, not a thylacine," said Jeremy Austin, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Adelaide in South Australia.

Other scientists agree. The animal's gait gives it away, said Cameron Campbell of the Thylacine Museum, a website dedicated to Tasmanian tigers. Campbell said in an email that he and his fellow thylacine researchers all agree that the animal shown in the video is certainly a red fox (Vulpes vulpes), a species introduced to Australia from Europe in the mid-1800s. Since then, red foxes have spread across the continent.

Austin said the man who shot the video, Murray McAllister, sent him DNA samples of the supposed thylacine for testing. The samples tested positive for red fox.

Tasmanian tigers are not related to tigers — instead, they got their name from the stripes on their backs. Officially, the last known Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) died in 1936 at the Hobart Zoo in Tasmania.

But that hasn't stopped the hunt for the animal. So-called cryptozoologists — scientists that search for living animals believed to be extinct — are convinced that thylacines still roam the Australian countryside. Campbell is confident that thylacines survive today, but said there is no definitive proof.

Austin told OurAmazingPlanet that people should stop looking for Tasmanian tigers and start tackling Tasmania's real problems — which include habitat loss and animal mortality related to human activities.

This article was provided by OurAmazingPlanet, a sister site of LiveScience.

Brett Israel was a staff writer for Live Science with a focus on environmental issues. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from The University of Georgia, a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, and has studied doctorate-level biochemistry at Emory University.