Early Tasmanian wildlife, 1720s

Early Tasmanian wildlife, 1720s

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Credit: PAUL D STEWART/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Early Tasmanian wildlife, 18th-century illustration. These unidentified animals appeared in a work by Dutch historian Francois Valentijn (1666-1727). Valentijn was historian of the Dutch East India Company, and was given access to the secret archives of earlier Dutch voyages (amongst them Abel Tasman and the naturalist Rumphius). This image is in a section on Ambon in Indonesia (which is where many Dutch voyages south began, and where collected specimens ended up). The animal at left strongly resembles a thylacine or Tasmanian wolf (Thylacinus cynocephalus), though this animal's naming and official description by Harris occurred 75 years later. The animal at right resembles a Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii). These possible identifications were proposed in 2016 by Paul D. Stewart, who suggests that they were sketched from life by an earlier Dutch voyager to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), and copied for this later work. Artwork from 'Oud en Nieuw Oost Indien' (1724-6).

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