University of Melbourne professor Andrew Pask says Tasmanian tiger research may pave way for recreating species

'De-extincting' Tasmanian tigers no longer science fiction

A researcher from the University of Melbourne says that seeing Tasmanian tigers alive again may be a reality in the future.

Bioscience professor Andrew Pask is involved with a team of researchers who recently discovered significant similarities between the embryonic development of thylacines and wolves.

Professor Pask said that the two animals were not related, but evolved in similar ways as their lifestyles were similar.

"They develop in the same way and they end up looking the same as a pup," Professor Pask said.

"In the pouch they look the same as little dogs. They have to evolve to look like an adult dog and they live a very similar lifestyle to a wolf."

He said that research such as this, and the mapping of the animal's DNA which the team completed in 2019, may allow for future breeding programs.

"It is no longer science fiction. We have all the tools to do it, it would just take so long," Professor Pask said.

He said if attempted now, it would take decades and billions of dollars; money and time which would be better spent preserving populations of living marsupials.

"Do you want to spend the time and money doing it? Obviously the money is better spent on preserving the marsupials we have."

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The professor said a team of researchers in the USA were leading the charge on a similar project with the woolly mammoth, and his team's thylacine research may provide for similar opportunities in the future.

Two thylacines at Beaumaris Zoo, Battery Point, Hobart c. 1912. Picture: Supplied/Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Two thylacines at Beaumaris Zoo, Battery Point, Hobart c. 1912. Picture: Supplied/Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

"We are really fascinated with learning more about the biology of the thylacine, it is really different to any other marsupial.

"All of this does actually contribute and I really one day the tech becomes cheap enough and available enough to de-extinct the thylacine.

"We wouldn't have even considered this ten years ago."

This story 'De-extincting' Tasmanian tigers no longer science fiction first appeared on The Advocate.