Thursday, 26 September 2019

The shared evolution of the Tasmanian tiger and the wolf


SEPTEMBER 24, 2019

by Dr Charles Feigin, University of Melbourne
The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was one of Australia's most enigmatic native species.
It was the largest marsupial predator to survive until the arrival of Europeans but carried its babies in a pouch like a kangaroo or koala.
Tragically, the last known thylacine died in Hobart in 1936 after a bounty was placed on its head and after decades of hunting by farmers.
Haunting photographs and film of the last known thylacines and a wealth of museum specimens, reveal an uncanny animal with its wolf head and tiger stripes.
A new study led by by Professor Andrew Pask and myself at the University of Melbourne, published in the journal Genome Research, has made the first headway into answering this question by comparing the complete DNA sequences of the thylacine and wolf.
And it confirms that the resemblance between the two isn't just skin deep.
The thylacine and placental canids such as wolves, dogs and foxes, are perhaps the most striking example of convergent evolution. Through this process, distantly related animals can evolve similar forms in response to shared environmental challenges.

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