Biology

No Longer Science Fiction: De-Extinction of the Tasmanian Tiger Moves One Step Closer

Tasmanian Tiger Joeys

A graphical representation of the internal structure of Tasmanian tiger joeys. Credit: TIGGR Lab

The University of Melbourne is establishing a world-class research lab for de-extinction and marsupial conservation science thanks to a $5 million philanthropic gift.

The gift will be used to establish the Thylacine Integrated Genetic Restoration Research (TIGRR) Lab, led by Professor Andrew Pask, which will develop technologies that could achieve de-extinction of the thylacine (commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger), and provide crucial tools for threatened species conservation.

“Thanks to this generous funding we’re at a turning point where we can develop the technologies to potentially bring back a species from extinction and help safeguard other marsupials on the brink of disappearing,” Professor Pask, from the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne said.

“Our research proposes nine key steps to de-extinction of the thylacine. One of our biggest breakthroughs was sequencing the thylacine genome, providing a complete blueprint on how to essentially build a thylacine.”

“The funding will allow our lab to move forward and focus on three key areas: improving our understanding of the thylacine genome; developing techniques to use marsupial stem cells to make an embryo; and then successfully transferring the embryo into a host surrogate uterus, such as a dunnart or Tasmanian devil,” Professor Pask said.

The thylacine, a unique marsupial carnivore also known as the Tasmanian wolf, was once widespread in Australia but was confined to the island of Tasmania by the time Europeans arrived in the 18th century. It was soon hunted to extinction by colonists, with the last known animal dying in captivity in 1936.

“Of all the species proposed for de-extinction, the thylacine has arguably the most compelling case. The Tasmanian habitat has remained largely unchanged, providing the perfect environment to re-introduce the thylacine and it is very likely its reintroduction would be beneficial for the whole ecosystem,” Professor Pask said.

At least 39 Australian mammal species have gone extinct in the past 200 years, and nine are currently listed as critically endangered and at high risk of extinction.

“The tools and methods that will be developed in the TIGRR Hub will have immediate conservation benefits for marsupials and provide a means to protect diversity and protect against the loss of species that are threatened or endangered,” Professor Pask said.

“While our ultimate goal is to bring back the thylacine, we will immediately apply our advances to conservation science, particularly our work with stem cells, gene editing, and surrogacy, to assist with breeding programs to prevent other marsupials from suffering the same fate as the Tassie tiger.”

The donation comes from the Wilson Family Trust. Mr. Russell Wilson said the story of the thylacine and its unceremonious exit from this world really touched his family.

“We came across Professor Pask’s incredible work, believe it or not, via some YouTube clips on him talking about his research and passion for the thylacine and Australian marsupials. We realize that we are on the verge of a great breakthrough in science through improvements in technology and its application to the genome,” Mr. Wilson said.

“The benefits of this open research will be wide and varied.”

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  • Very I nteresting.

    1. Many More Species like the Koala bear and others like Koala bear can be added to the list. Especially after recent forest forest fires.

    2. Maybe my good friends the "Aussies" Can develop a comprehensive theory of "Extinction of species" . After all , when they say "Today" it sounds like "To die".!!! Name it after"Warnie" . I saw his first test match at Mumbai .

  • Dont put your trust in humans because we are destroyers not creators of living organisms only God the one who gives life and made this planet can truly do what they hope they can (scientists) evolution is a farce and only an Idiot would believe such a theory Things adapt to their environment or perish...

      • No, no "amen" and "100% fActS" any REAL Christian would and should be DISGUSTED by this person's ingorance, denial, and IDIOTICAL stance on (seemingly) science?!? .... And any "christians" who do aren't REAL Christians?!? .... They simply just use Christianity as a CRUTCH so they can feel better about themselves and their PATHETIC life and ANYTHING that suggests otherwise (that Christianity isn't 100% true/real.... 😶😐😑🙄) They dimiss as being "dumb" or "just a theory" ..... REGARDLESS of evidence.... If it challenges the idea that when they die they'll get sit on a cloud and play the harp for the rest of eternity.... They close-mindly DENY it?!? .... Like, you simply can't just REJECT something because it's goes against your personal opinions and ideals?!? .... ESPECIALLY if it has EVIDENCE behind it?!? .... Like?!? .... That's like rejecting that the OCEAN exists because you don't like the idea if you go inside of it(unprepared of course.) You'll DROWN?!? ........ If you really support this close-minded, selfish, evidence-denying, and anti-science behavior...... I'm promise you that the only place you're going when you die(if "god" really does exist.) Is DOWN.... 😶

    • Like?!? .... You did you REALLY just called MOST of the population "iDioTs"?!? .... Doctors, surgeons, lifeguards, scientists, artists, and SOLIDERS?!? .... Simply because their "beliefs" don't Aline with your "beliefs"?!? ..... Because they don't believe that there's a MAN in the SKY?!? .... And when they die.... They'll get on a cloud And the harp for the rest of ETERNITY?!? .... LIKE?!? .... Who's the real "iDiOt" here?!? ... DUMBASS... 😶

  • Very interested to see other applications of this technique. Great work people involved !!

  • Asan spprentice Electrician, when I was wirkin* in the Australian Museum on the corner of Park, and College Streets Sydney, I can remember seeing a Foetus of a thylacine stored in the Carpenters Workshop.
    I have mentioned this numerous times in the hope that it would be of some Benefit to Science, I have always wondered what happened to that Foetus.

  • I think it's a great idea.its not playing God,it's working with what God has already created. Ill pray!

  • I wish them godspeed. Hopefully someday we can bring back the dodo, passenger pigeon, mammoth, mastodon, and wooly rhino.

  • Jimmie, you are rambling about a topic that you have no knowledge or expertise in, you are being ignorant to something that has tangible research and data behind it, but sure - keep rambling and preaching about something you read in a book with no factual or visible evidence to it, in an attempt to denounce and discredit something that you simply do not understand despite the facts that were laid out infront of your eyes.

  • My 1st reaction is "What an excellent advance in science!
    2nd reaction is " who decidesw what to bring what back, and how do we know in which environment?
    3rd: Oh, great. This science can be used to continue our path of extinction, believing we only need more taxes to bring back beings, without taking into account that their death has changed our environment so much, and potentially irrevocably.

  • It is cruel to bring one back just to satisfy our curiosity. No doubt it will be on exhibition for tourists. It will be alone with no others of its kind. Please don't do this.

By
University of Melbourne

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