The Human Impact: How the Tasmanian Tiger went Extinct

Tasmanian Tiger” by Scouts Atomic Flash (CC BY 2.0)

Thylacinus cynocephalus, often called the tasmanian tiger or the tasmanian wolf, is a carnivorous marsupial which humans have hunted to extinction. The last tasmanian tiger died due to neglect in Hobart Zoo September 7th, 1936 [4] officially marking the extinction of an awesome marsupial.

It was not actually a tiger or a wolf, and was more closely related to the tasmanian devil. The most fascinating characterisitic about this species is that this creature was a marsupial, meaning that it carried its young in a pouch like a kangaroo or a sugar glider.

Physical Characteristics

It was the largest carnivorous marsupial around 100-130cm in length, with a tail that was on average 50-65cm [2]. It was 60cm tall and could weigh up to 27Kg [4]. These marsupials had distinctive black stripes from its shoulders down its tail. The rest of the beast was tan with short dense fur. Males averaged larger sizes than the females which is an example of sexual dimorphism.

The females had a rear-opening pouch which is designed to prevent dirt from getting in when the creature was digging. Strangely the males also had a partial rear-facing pouch which served as a protective covering for its external sex organs [6].

The hindlegs were longer than the front legs, however, they were short, similar to a munchkin cat. Their stiff tail that could not wag, contributed to their strange style of walking. On all fours, the creature was slow and could trot but not sprint. Interestingly, they could perform a bipedal hop like a kangaroo, using their stiff tail as a support [4].

Kangaroo Posture by WhereLightMeetsDark (CC BY 2.0)

An Apex Predator

As a carnivore it ate other marsupials with a preference for wallabies and possums. The diet of these large marsupials also included birds and small rodents. As nocturnal animals they typically hunted at night in pairs or alone [5]. They were well suited for hunting at night due to their well developed elliptical eyes that were similar to a cat’s [4]. After Euopean colonization, they also attacked and ate small farm animals such as chickens.

While on the hunt it was reported that they were stealthy and made small “yapping” noises [2], perhaps to alert the other to movement or a random thought. Video and photographs demonstrated that it could open its mouth about 90 degrees and although they had 46 teeth, the jaw muscles were not strong enough to kill larger prey such as kangaroos or sheep [2]. Using the night as cover, they were primarily ambush hunters that displayed characteristics more similar to a cat than a dog [4].

Habitat

It was found primarily in Australia and fossil evidence suggests that they had evolved around 400 million years ago. Competition with other carnivores such as the dingo caused the species to become exclusivley found in Tasmania about 2000 years ago [2]. It was in Tasmania around the end of the 1780’s that Europeans first encountered these creatures.

While they preferred open grasslands and forests, European settlements forced these reclusive creatures into denser forests. During daylight hours, they slept in caves and hollow trees and logs [4].

Behavior

While there is little information on the behavior of this species, early observations of these nocturnal creatures indicated that they were timid and avoided contact with early settlers. Most observations of the species came from captive animals and a population of Thylacine that were going extinct.

These creatures may have looked like vicious beasts due to the misconception that they would kill livestock but the reality is that they were fearful of humans. Stressed populations are more likely to demonstrate erratic behaviors [3] and observations made during the culling of the species could be related to intense stress within the population.

Breeding Behaviors

The females were able to produce offspring throughout the year as indicated by joeys found in the pouches during all seasons when the species was culled [6]. Peak breeding seasons were the winter and spring with females having two to four joeys per litter. Joeys remained in the pouch until they grew fur and were able to move about, then they remianed in the nest for an unkown amount of time. Like the adults, there is little known about the behavior of joeys and juveniles. Melbourne Zoo in 1899 was the only successful captive breeding of the species [6].

Thylacine Skeletons” by y3rdua (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Extinction

Dingos drove the tasmanian tiger out of the Australian mainland about 2000 years ago due to competition for food and resources [5]. Humans killed off the rest of them.

Dingos never migrated to the Tasmanian island and so the Thylacine had no competition for food on the island. They coexisted with native peoples until the arrival of the European settlers. On May 6th, 1930, a farmer shot and killed the last wild Thylacine on the claim that it was attacking his chickens [4].

The culling of the species due to the label as “pests” and a perceived threat to livestock was cruel and inexcusable. The arrival of settlers, their livestock, and their pets directly contributed to the extinction of the coolest species I have ever learned about. Over 2,0000 private and government bounties lead to increased killing of the species [1] that directly led to the downfall of their population.

While there were no dingos to outcompete the Thylacine, the dogs and cats that settlers brought over posed a new threat to the species. Not only did these species outcompete the tasmanian tiger for food but they also spread new diseases that their immune systems could not respond to [4]. It is believed that they contracted distemper or mange from feral offspring of European pets. Due to the small population size, and therefore limited genetic diversity, the tasmanian tiger population was unable to defend itself from these new threats.

The arrival of settlers in Tasmania led to the destruction of the tasmanian tiger’s habitat due to the clearing of forests and fields for agriculture [4]. Habitat destruction led to limited resources such as shelter, food, and water which were taken over by feral dogs and cats. With limited options, the tasmanian tigers did kill small livestock such as chickens, however, that did not give humans the right to hunt them to extinction.

Other than simply killing them, the tasmanian tigers were also part of the fur trade and exchanged between zoos to be used as entertainment for humans [4]. The fur trade included the tasmanian tigers themselves, but more importantly their prey species were killed in large quantities [6] leaving many thylacine to starve. Poor treatment of captive animals and culling led to the extinction of this species.

A Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) with three cubs at Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart, 1909.” Image credit: Tasmanian Musuem and Art Gallery. (CC0)

Unconfirmed Sightings

There may be some hope that the species survived in seclusion, but like Bigfoot sightings, it can be difficult to know when something is true.

It was estimated that about 5,000 tasmanian tigers lived in Tasmania when Europeans began settling the island. Personal bounties on the animal began in the 1830’s and by 1888 the Tasmanian Parliament issued a bounty on the species [2]. They became extinct due to humans. Multiple sightings have spurred interested parties into investigating whether these claims are true.

From 1936 to 1998, there were 203 reports of Thylacine sightings on the mainland, Australia [6]. Reports of sightings in Tasmania continue into the present which has encouraged many researchers and zoologists to seek out evidence that it miraculously survived. Efforts have been fruitless so far.

Bibliography

[1] Attard, Marie. “Why Did the Tasmanian Tiger Go Extinct?” The Conversation, 4 Mar. 2020, theconversation.com/why-did-the-tasmanian-tiger-go-extinct-11324.

[2] Bradford, Alina. “Facts About Tasmanian Tigers.” LiveScience, Purch, 20 Apr. 2017, www.livescience.com/58753-tasmanian-tiger-facts.html.

[3] Campbell, Cameron. “The Thylacine Museum – Biology: Behaviour (Page 1).” Go to the NATURAL WORLDS Introduction Page, www.naturalworlds.org/thylacine/biology/behaviour/behaviour_1.htm.

[4] Oz, Trishan. “Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine) Facts .” Panique, Senani Ponnamperuma, 29 Jan. 2020, panique.com.au/trishansoz/animals/tasmanian-tiger-thylacine.html.

[5] “The Thylacine.” The Australian Museum, New South Wales Government, 2 Apr. 2019, australianmuseum.net.au/learn/australia-over-time/extinct-animals/the-thylacine/.

[6] “Thylacine.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Nov. 2006, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thylacine.

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Diabetes in Cats

My friends and family know that my cat Jasmine Dandelion is my life and joy. Recently she went in for a geriatric appointment with the vet because she is now an old cat. Her bloodwork showed signs of diabetes mellitus and she is now on insulin shots. We are hopeful that we will have several more years with her if she responds well to the treatment.

“Jasmine” by H. Schofield (CC BY 2.0)

What is Diabetes?

It is an endocrine disorder that affects the pancreas in many different species including humans and cats. It affects the production and utilization of the hormone insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for the proper uptake of glucose by the cells. If not enough insulin is produced or the insulin is unable to funciton properly, cells can not absorb and use glucose for energy [3]. This leads to hyperglycemia, high blood glucose levels, which is associated with many health risks.

There are three common types of diabetes, Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin because the immune system has attacked and destroyed the insulin producing cells within the pancreas. This type of diabetes is typically diagnosed early on and patients must take insulin shots daily to live. Type 2 diabetes typically occurs later in life and is due to the inability to properly utilize the hormone which leads to high blood glucose levels. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and is usually resolved once the baby is born.

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus, type 2, is what Jasmine has.

Jasmine’s condition was detected by the blood work done at the Marlborough Veterinary Clinic. A urine sample showed signs of glucosuria which is excessive sugar in the urine. I should have noticed that there was something wrong with my cat, she was always laying by the water dish and drinking a lot which I learned was polyuria, excessive thirst, a symptom of diabetes. Jasmine also lost a lot of weight as well, which I thought was due to her becoming an older cat, however, I learned from my veterinarian that although diabetic cats can maintain a good appetite they are unable to utilize the carbohydrates from their food and subsequently they lose weight. Most cats that are diagnosed with diabetes have type 2, diabetes mellitus. It is estimated that 0.2-1% of cats are affected by diabetes [1].

Symptoms of Diabetes in Cats

Initial Signs

  • Weight loss despite healthy/increased appetite
  • Polyuria (excessive urination)
  • Polydipsia (excessive thirst)

Signs of disease progression

  • Poor skin and fur
  • Liver disease
  • Secondary bacterial infections – due to an impaired immune system

Diabetic Neuropathy

This condition develops in cases where the diabetes is left uncontrolled and typically happens to obese elderly cats. The nerves within the hindlimbs become damaged leading to an inability to stand upright. The nerve damage causes the cat to stand in a “plantegrade” stance with their “hock” on the ground [1] as seen below.

Brave Cat” by the London Cat Clinic (CC 2.0)

Ketoacidosis

A serious and fatal disease that typically follows diabetes in older female cats. It results from the build up of acid within the blood which is caused by a build up of ketone bodies. This is a result of insulin dependency, stress, and underlying infections [2]. Symptoms to look out for include vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, lethargy, and respiratory problems. Without immediate treatment this condition is fatal.

Diagnosis

Diabetes is diagnosed based on a clinical examination coupled with bloodwork and a urine sample. The glucose concentration is measured in both mediums to determine if there is hyperglycemia. Jasmine’s blood glucose level was at 660, when it should not even be over 200 according to my veterinarian. I am very worried about my cat.

Since glucose curves can be negatively affected by the stress level of the cat sometimes veterinarians will use fructosamine. This molecule is elevated in cats with chronic diabetes and is not affected by the stress level of the cat [1]. It is a good way to determine if the cat really does have diabetes.

Treatment

While there is no cure for the disease effective insulin therapy will improve their quality of life and prolong the time you have with your fur baby. The goal is to control the disease by maintaining a normal blood glucose concentration, minimizing weight loss and other symptoms of the disease, and normalizing their appetite.

Insulin Therapy

Insulin injections are the most effective method of controlling the disease in cats. The dosage for each cat is specific and can be determined by a glucose curve performed by a veterinarian. This typcially monitors how the cat reacts to the insulin and determines the dosage and how often they need the injections. Injection sites should be rotated so that scar tissue build up does not prevent proper uptake of the insulin by the cat. The glucose curve is done multiple times to ensure that the dose is accurate and that the cat is responding well to the treatment.

Overdosage of insulin is potentially fatal if not noticed right away and corrected. Too much insulin can cause hypoglycemia, which is low blood sugar levels. Symptoms include weakness, incoordination (like a drunk person), convulsions, coma, and if left untreated, death. If these signs are noticed, offer the cat normal food stuffs to increase their blood glucose levels. Do not attempt to force water or food into the mouth of a convulsing or comatose cat. A visit to the veterinarian is a good idea if this condition appears in your cat.

Jasmine is on Vetsulin which an insulin approved for dogs and cats.

Dietary Considerations

A veterinarian will help tailor a diet specifically for your cat. Obese cats should not drop too much weight too fast. For the obese cats, a high fiber, complex carbohydrate diet will aide in regulating blood glucose levels. Cats should be given their food before they recieve their shots so as to avoid hypoglycemia. Meal planning and the administration of the shots should be put onto a schedule that will be created and explained by the veterinarian.

Bibliography

[1] CVM. “Feline Diabetes.” Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 23 July 2018, potentaiwww.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-diabetes.

[2] “Diabetes with Ketone Bodies in Cats.” PetMD, 2020, www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/endocrine/c_ct_diabetes_with_ketoacidosis.

[3] NIH. “What Is Diabetes?” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 Dec. 2016, www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes.

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Digital Identity

Online Identity” by Marc Pletinckx (CC BY 4.0)

Technological advancements have brought humanity into the age of the internet, and with it, the possibility to connect with people across the globe with ease. The ability to share information, collaborate, and learn by simply logging into a computer or smart phone has changed the way we interact and view the world around us. Our entire lives are digitized onto hard drives, especially now that companies are going paperless.

A digital identity is the self that one portrays through social media and interacting on the internet with others. It consists of facts about yourself and the compilation of your online activities. Your digital attributes would include your birthdate and medical records that are now all filed electronically, as well as any government issued identification that is stored within the system. The other aspect of your digital identity is the way in which you interact online. This could include posting photos and informations about yourself on social media, watching and liking videos on YouTube, your search history and purchase history, and application downloads. Compiled together, these characteristics develop into a digital identity that allows others to view your experiences and generate credibility among your peers and potential employers.

Social Media” by 2nd Lt. Brittany Curry (CC BY 4.0)

Your digitial identity is built as you build your profile, establish your likes/dislikes, get followers/follow others, and network within communities that interest you. Social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have search tools where you can look up hashtags, people, or topics that relate to your areas of interest. Interacting by sharing posts, commenting on posts, or simply just liking a post are great ways to network and establish solid connections that could help you achieve your goals in the future.

Personally, my digital identity is small. I have email like most people. For my academic pursuits and networking I have a Twitter (@has6595) that I use to keep up with various animal related organizations, politics, and to tweet about my blog posts. I am slowly developing a LinkedIn for my professional digitial identity but have to familiarize myself with it some more before I feel confident in my control of my profile. My personal accounts on Facebook and Instagram are much more developed and my obsession with all animals cute and furry is quite obvious. I make sure to keep my posts on both of my personal accounts professional, but I do use them more freely. My goal right now, is to connect with more veterinarians through my professional accounts, Twitter and LinkedIn, so that I can begin gaining experience in my intended field.

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Graduate Exams

DCap Examination” by voipnovatos  (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Many students continue their academic journey after their undergraduate studies. In order to continue onto a graduate degree program, there are many steps involved. One such step is taking more exams. These include the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT to name a few. All of which are designed to measure a student’s academic ability and to determine if they will be successful in their graduate studies. It is important to check the university website to determine eligibility requirements and to see which tests must be taken prior to admission. As a Biology major who intends to pursue a DVM, I will have to take the GRE.

The GRE

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a very common tool used by masters and graduate level programs to test the academic readiness of candidates. It tests an applicant’s critical thinking and analytical skills through a series of multiple choice questions and essays. These are designed to get a baseline of the applicant’s knowledge in mathematics, reading comprehension, and language skills. Overall this test is designed to determine if a student will be successful at analyzing and interpreting graduate level material.

While it is recomended to take the exam during your third year of undergrad, if one plans to take time off prior to starting their graduate studies, there is more time. It can be taken up to five times, once a month, but this should be completed prior to applying as the score will be requried for the application process. Testing registration and locations can be found on the ETS website.

Preparation for this exam may seem overwhelming but there are many tools available. Kaplan offers online and in person preparation courses that help students learn how to answer the test questions as well as become familar with the format. The ETS website also provides review and practice materials for the exams.

There are three sections on the exam, verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. In the first section, verbal reasoning, students must analyze a discussion and draw conclusions that demonstrate that the student can interpret the main ideas, understand connections between themes, have a grasp of the vocabulary, and delve into the figurative motifs and differing perspectives. The second section, quantitative reasoning, tests the students’ mathematical problem solving and analytical skills using quantitative data. The third section, analytical writing, involves writing essays that demonstrate clear structure and present detailed evidence that supports the thesis. All three sections are taken together whether it be a computer-delivered or paper-delivered GRE test. The test iteself takes three and a half hours with scheduled breaks.

Scoring on the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections is point based and the analytical writing section is reviewed by two different human panel members and an e-rater machine.

GMAT

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is required for admissions into graduate level business programs. The test itself is a computer adapted standardized multiple choice exam that will indicate if a student is prepared for graduate level studies. The exam measures mathematic capabilities, the ability to sythesize and analyze data, and reading comprehension.

The test consists of four sections, analytical writing assessment, integrated reasoning, quantitative, and verbal. The first section, analytical writing, is designed to allow business schools to assess the students’ writing skills. They are presented with an argument and must reasonably critique it. The second section, integrated reasoning, uses graphics and tables to estimate the students’ ability to interpret and analyze multiple sources of data. The third section, quantitative, tests the problem solving capabilities of the students. The fourth section, verbal, is designed to test the students’ reading comprehension, grammar, and critical reasoning skills. The test takes about three and a half hours and students are able to determine the order in which they take the sections prior to begining the exam. Scheduling exams can be found here.

Scoring of the exam is done using an algorithm that calculates a score based on questions that were answered correctly versus incorrectly as well as incorporating the difficulty level of the question. There are also penalties for skipping questions so test takers must try their best to answer all questions that come up.

LSAT

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is an exam necessary to enter ABA-accredited law schools in the United States and Canada. The test is designed to assess critical thinking and reasoning skills that are necessary for a career in law. The exam is two parts, the first is multiple choice and the second is a written essay. Both parts are administered online.

Gavel” by Allen Allen (CC BY 2.0)

MCAT

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is designed to determine is students are prepared for the rigor of medical school. It is split into four sections that demonstrate the students’ understanding of biological and social sciences as well as reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. The four sections are:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
  • Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior

The test is vigorous and takes about seven and a half hours with scheduled breaks. It is scored based upon correct answers so that students are not losing points when they get a wrong answer.

Doctor” by mohamed_hassan (CC0)

Exams…

Although we all hate taking exams, especially when they last more than an hour, it is a necessary part of graduate studies. The exams not only help admissions determine if a student is ready, but can also give the student a sense of his/her strengths and weaknesses. It is important to know when and where the exam is available and which exam is needed for your program. Preparing for the exam is just as important as taking the exam. There are limitations on how many times each exam can be taken, so it is prudent to be prepared and do your best each time.

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Career Path Diagram

As part of our experience as young adults, we must plan for our future if we wish to be successful. So here is my attempt at planning the next steps of my life…

Plan A:

  1. Graduate from KSC
  2. Relocate to North Carolina
  3. Establish residency in NC
  4. Gain experience by working in a veterinary hospital (200 hours required)
  5. Take GRE
  6. Apply to NC State DVM program
  7. Take the four year program
  8. Graduate
  9. Work in a veterinary hospital or rehabilitation center
  10. Retire
  11. Teach at a University

To be honest, the gaining of experience could be done anywhere, I am just ready for some change. Also, North Carolina is lot closer to my family than NH.

Plan B:

  1. Graduate from KSC
  2. Stay in the area to gain experience in veterinary practice
  3. Move…?
  4. Apply to graduate school- NC State..?
  5. Four year program
  6. Graduate
  7. Be a vet

This one is basically the same as before but it shows the plan should I stay in the Keene area after graduation. Also, if I stay in the area before I apply, I can apply to anywhere because I will have not yet settled anywhere permanent.

Plan C:

  1. Graduate KSC
  2. Work for a veterinarian somewhere
  3. Become content
  4. Get 50 cats

This is the last resort, hopefully I am able to get my degree, but one never knows because life happens.

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Begining of the end…

As I enter into my last semester as an undergraduate student, I have to seriously start thinking about my future and how I can use my degree to reach my personal and professional goals. I am currently studying Biology and Spanish language at KSC and although I have professional plans for the Biology aspect of my studies, my knowledge of the Spanish language has mostly been for the enrichment of my soul. It may seem like an overwhelming task, planning one’s future, but with a solid support system of friends, family, and my amazing professors, I feel confident that I will be successful.

The end goal has been the same for years, I would love to be a veterinarian and work in the field of rehabilitation for wildlife. I am especially fond of squirrels. Reaching that goal, is the journey that I must plan out and execute, hopefully incorporating my passion for Spanish language and culture.

Orphaned Baby Squirrels Rescued” by Vet Ranch (CC 4.0)

The obvious next step after graduation would be to attend a graduate program to get my DVM. Ideally, I would have started this process already, however, life happens. I plan to take a year off to explore my options, get my credentials in order, and relocate to establish residency where I plan to earn my degree.

What I know so far is that I must pass my GRE, apply to the program, get accepted, and find the funds to pay for it. What I am unsure of is how to actually do all of that. With hard work and deterimination I should be able to figure it out and smoothly transition into the next chapter of my life.

Wish me luck!

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