Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Tasmanian tiger doomed long before humans came along


December 12, 2017

The Tasmanian tiger was doomed long before humans began hunting the enigmatic marsupial, scientists said Tuesday, with DNA sequencing showing it was in poor genetic health for thousands of years before its extinction.

Scientists genetically mapped the animal—also known as a thylacine—using the genome of a pup preserved more than a century ago in a jar.

The research revealed the creature began to undergo a decline in genetic diversity more than 70,000 years ago, leaving it less resilient to environmental change even before Aborigines are believed to have first inhabited the continent 65,000 years ago.

"Our hope is that there is a lot the thylacine can tell us about the genetic basis of extinction to help other species," said University of Melbourne biologist Andrew Pask, co-author of a study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Pask added the research may eventually enable scientists to clone the Tasmanian tiger and bring it back from the dead.

"As this genome is one of the most complete for an extinct species, it is technically the first step to 'bringing the thylacine back', but we are still a long way off that possibility."

The animal was once widespread across Australia, but was wiped out on the mainland around 3,000 years ago, having likely succumbed to drought.


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