Anytime we hear the news about an animal going extinct, it makes us feel just a little sad. Some of those animals may be very familiar to us and others, we never even got the opportunity to know.
There are also plenty of animals that went extinct many years ago and we may not be very familiar with them. That includes the Tasmanian tiger, which has been officially extinct since 1936.
As it turns out, extinct does not necessarily mean gone forever, at least if researchers from the University of Melbourne have their way.
According to BBC, Andrew Pascoe, an evolutionary biology professor from that university is leading the Thylacine Integrated Genetic Restoration Research (TIGRR). They also have backing from the Wilson Family Trust of some $5 million.
As it turns out, the genomes from the Tasmanian tiger are in very good shape, so Dr. Pask feels that de-extinction may be an option. He spoke about it in a video shared by the University of Melbourne:
Can we bring the Tasmanian Tiger back from extinction? Prof. Andrew Pask explains how his lab’s research could make it happen.Read more about the research and the nine steps to de-extinction in Pursuit → unimelb.me/38nQynf
Posted by The University of Melbourne on Tuesday, May 10, 2022
Back in 2005, Pask was able to use a mouse embryo to resurrect a single Tasmanian tiger gene. While he didn’t used to believe that bringing back the species was practical, he’s a large supporter of it now. According to NPR he said, “Even species with low genetic diversity can be brought back to healthy population numbers again if they are managed correctly…The thylacine was the only apex predator in the Tasmanian ecosystem, so no other animal was able to fill its place once it was lost.”
Pask feels that reintroducing this extinct mammal to the environment could have positive benefits and bring about a balance that is sorely needed.
After the Tasmanian tiger is brought back from extinction, it is a matter of making sure that the species is protected. According to Discovery, Ben Lamm, founder of Colossal Biosciences and a coworker of Pask, has the following to say on the subject:
“Colossal is working on full-stage artificial wombs that can help in full ex-utero development all the way from embryos. These gestational technologies alone will be transformational for marsupial conservation.”
In addition to protecting the Tasmanian tiger, those efforts would also keep the Tasmanian devil from going extinct. This would be by the creation of an exo-pouch, which would help the joeys to survive.
Lamm went on to talk about how Tasmanian devils will generally have about 20 joeys or more, but they only have four nipples so not many of them survive. It will be interesting to see where this one goes.