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Nearly 100 years ago the last Tasmanian tiger died, ending the reign of a species that dates back to 1000 BC Now scientists are seeking to bring them back from the dead.
Known as Thylacine, the carnivorous marsupial once roamed the Australian outback before the last known survivor of the striped species died in 1936. Scientists now plan to use genetic technology, ancient DNA collection and artificial breeding to bring back the tiger.
“We would strongly advocate that first and foremost we need to protect our biodiversity from further extinctions, but unfortunately we are not seeing a slowdown in species loss,” said Andrew Pask, a University of Melbourne professor who leads the project at Thylacine. Integrated Genetics Restoration Research Laboratory.
“This technology offers the opportunity to correct this and could be applied in rare circumstances where key species have been lost.”
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The thylacine project is working with technology investor Ben Lamm’s Colossal Biosciences and Harvard Medical School geneticist George Church. Lamm’s organization also launched a $15 million project to save the woolly mammoth from extinction.
The last living thylacine was named Benjamin, and he died in 1936 at Beaumaris Zoo in Tasmania, shortly after the animal species gained protected status.
The team plans to first design a genome for the tiger and compare it to the dunnart, its closest living relative. Scientists will then use CRISPR gene-editing technology to eventually create an embryo.
“Then we take living cells from our dunnart and edit their DNA at each place where it differs from the thylacine. Basically, we’re engineering our dunnart cell to become a Tasmanian tiger cell,” Pask said.
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The researcher concluded: “With this association, I now believe that within ten years we could have our first living baby thylacine since they were hunted to extinction nearly a century ago.”
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