Aug 22, 2022 - News

A Texas tech company wants to resurrect the Tasmanian tiger

Two Tasmanian tigers, with stripes on their back end
Now extinct Tasmanian tiger (thylacine) in 1933 at Hobart Zoo in Tasmania, Australia. Photo: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Colossal Biosciences, a Dallas "de-extinction company" wants to genetically resurrect the Tasmanian tiger — also known as the thylacine — which became extinct in 1936.

Why it matters: The announcement from Colossal, which recently raised $75 million with plans to bring back extinct animals like the woolly mammoth using gene-editing technology, has raised a slew of Jurassic Park-level ethical concerns.

  • Some experts wonder if a resurrected species would have high enough genetic diversity for a healthy population.
  • Others wonder how the return of an apex predator will affect Tasmania's habitat.
  • Researchers are also worried that focusing on de-extinction could shift limited resources away from protecting threatened species that are still alive, leading to a net biodiversity loss.

How it works: Scientists would start by sequencing the thylacine's genome from DNA that's been preserved for decades. Next, they would complete the same process for one of the thylacine's closest living relatives, a tiny marsupial called the fat-tailed dunnart, per Smithsonian Magazine.

Fun fact: Tasmanian tigers weren't felines at all. They were dog-like marsupials.

What they're saying: "This mythically beautiful carnivorous marsupial was a true masterpiece of biological advancement. Yet, the story of its extinction is a tragedy of human interference and aggression," Colossal said in a statement.

The other side: "It's pretty clear to people like me that thylacine or mammoth de-extinction is more about media attention for the scientists and less about doing serious science," Jeremy Austin, an evolutionary biologist from the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

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