Scientists to Resurrect the Lost Species of Tasmanian Tiger, Extinct Marsupials Will Bring Balance Back in Tasmania's Ecosystem

Could scientific breakthrough resurrect the Tasmanian tiger that went extinct almost 100 years ago? Read the article to know how scientists plan to de-extinct these marsupials.

Tasmanian tiger
Tasmanian tiger

The last Tasmanian Tiger, Benjamin, died of exposure in a ZOO in 1936. He was left outside without shelter, food, or water until he succumbed to the elements.

De-extinction scientists from the University of Melbourne in Australia hope to resurrect the long-extinct species of Tasmanian tiger last seen almost 100 years ago. The team has been working on a project to de-extinct the marsupials for years and they received new funding for a state-of-the-art laboratory. They hope to bring the lost species back. Tasmanian tigers, also known as thylacines, were a type of marsupial that went extinct in mainland Australia about 3,000 years ago but lived in Tasmania until European settlers wiped them out through hunting. The last Tasmanian tiger died in captivity in 1936.

TIGRR Lab Will Help Resurrect the Tasmanian Tiger

On March 1, scientists from the University of Melbourne announced the creation of the $3.6 million (AU$5 million) worth Thylacine Integrated Genetic Restoration Research (TIGRR) Lab. The world-class research lab is intended for the de-extinction of Tasmanian tiger and marsupial conservation science. The philanthropic gift will also provide tools for threatened species for conservation. Tasmanian tigers or Tasmanian wolves were predatory marsupials that share many similar traits with modern-day wild dogs in Australia. They have visually striking stripes on their hindlegs that are similar to zebras. It is the apex predator during its time and helps balance the ecosystem where it lives. Professor Andrew Pask from the university's School of Bio-Sciences said that the generous funding gives them a chance to develop technologies to potentially bring back a lost species to help safeguard other marsupials on the brink of extinction. He proposes nine key steps to resurrect them, which include genetic sequencing. He added that the funding would allow them to move forward towards improving the understanding of the thylacine genome, developing techniques to use marsupial cells to create an embryo, and successfully transforming that embryo into a host surrogate uterus. Professor Pask told Veterinary site that the level of support for this project could help them create a thylacine-like cell within 10 years. He added that it is a bit like Jurassic Park, but they only start with a living cell from a closely related species, in this case, the dunnart.

Decoding the Genes of Thylacine

Bringing back the Tasmanian tiger would require understanding its DNA code. In 2017, Pask and his team helped sequence the Tasmanian tiger genome that mapped out the DNA blueprint of the animal and provided the first crucial step on the path of bringing it back. Through CRISPR, the scientists would take cells from a related species to change that code and turn it into a Tasmanian tiger. To say simply, it is like making the second book of the Harry series with the same characters but a different plot to make it into a completely different book. The work needs to mold one species into another, which the scientists estimate will take a decade away. Pask noted that this is dependent on leaps in that technology over that time. TIGRR Lab's primary purpose is to use gene-editing techniques developed to make more immediate gains of gene editing marsupials.

Tasmanian Tiger (Color Video: Edited)

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