How scientists want to resurrect the Tasmanian tiger, a species that disappeared almost a century ago

How scientists want to resurrect the Tasmanian tiger, a species that disappeared almost a century ago
Scientists want to resurrect the Tasmanian tiger
TASMANIAN MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY/AFP/Archives/Handout Scientists want to resurrect the Tasmanian tiger

TASMANIAN MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY/AFP/Archives/Handout

ANIMALS – Will we see the thylacine, more commonly known as the “Tasmanian tiger”, of which only a few pictures and videos remain? The last known tiger died in a zoo in Hobart, capital of Tasmania (Australia), while the others were exterminated during an episode of hunt intensive against this wolf-sized marsupial mammal. According to one study published in 2017 in Nature Ecology and Evolutionthe extinction of this species was predictable long before man started hunting it because the state of the species did not allow a longer existence.

But a team of scientists is trying, for a few years, to revive it. In an interview given to Guardiana team of researchers from themelbourne university explains how she plans to reintroduce the animal to its natural environment in Tasmania. To make this project a reality, the university has already received 5 million dollars for the construction of a genetic restoration laboratory. And thanks to a specimen held by the Victoria Museum in Melbourne, the team has already sequenced a genome sample that represents the animal’s entire DNA formation.

This sample will make it possible to reconstruct the animal’s genetic fingerprint. The researchers will use DNA from the fat-tailed dunnart, a species genetically close to the Tasmanian tiger. Scientists hope to be able, within ten years, to transform its dunnart stem cells in order to reproduce the thylacine.

The leader of this team, Professor Andrew Pask hopes that “che project will have a positive impact on the many species extinctions » he declared to the Guardian.

Tasmanian tigers disappeared 85 years ago
Museum and Art Gallery of Tasmania Tasmanian tigers disappeared 85 years ago

Museum and Art Gallery of Tasmania

Do we really need to resurrect an extinct species?

Resurrecting the Tasmanian tiger is not a new idea. Biologist Mike Archer was appointed director of the Australian Museum in 1999 and his big plan was to revive the species by extracting its DNA from the museum’s specimen collection, reports the CNET. Eventually, the project was abandoned in 2005 because the quality of the DNA was too poor to be exploited.

This new project leaves other experts perplexed. ” De-extinction is a science of fairy tales, it is more a matter of media attention for scientists than serious science”says Professor Jeremy Austin, of the Australian Center for Ancient DNA, to the Sydney Morning Herald.

As for Corey Bradshaw, professor of global ecology at Flinders University, he considers it unlikely that it will work. “Even if you can do it [en laboratoire] — and I have my doubts about this — how do you create the thousands of individuals with enough genetic variation that you need to create a healthy population? » does he report to Guardian. Another question, is it really possible to resurrect a species that has been extinct for almost 100 years when its natural environment will necessarily have been modified?

See also on The HuffPost: These Colorized Archival Images Bring the Extinct Tasmanian Tiger to Life

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