Remains of last known Thylacine discovered

The Tasmanian tiger, as the thylacine is also known, has been a mystery for decades. Is the animal really extinct? Or have some specimens survived in the wild to this day?

So far it is known that the last known specimen died in 1936 at the zoo in Hobart on the Australian island of Tasmania. Researchers consider it unlikely that the animals survived in the wild for a long time afterwards. In 1982, the International Union for Conservation of Nature officially declared the predatory marsupials extinct, followed by the Tasmanian government in 1986.

But now, thanks to meticulous “detective work,” two Australian researchers have been able to prove that this last known thylacine was a female and not the male animal made famous by historical images and recordings. This was apparently the penultimate known animal.

Forgotten in the closet

Robert Paddle, a researcher at the Australian Catholic University, and the museum’s curator of vertebrate zoology, Kathryn Medlock, have now tracked down the skeleton of the truly last known thylacine in a cabinet at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG). According to Medlock, the remains fell into oblivion due to a failure to properly catalog the specimen. The latter led to the animal’s fur being shown as part of a traveling exhibition across the country, without the museum staff really knowing what a treasure it was holding in their hands.

In any case, people would have believed at the time that there were other thylacines in the wild, like the curator of the Australian broadcaster ABC said. There is still speculation about supposed sightings of a specimen, but there is no real evidence that any specimens have survived.

Cataloging was missed

The animal, whose remains the two researchers have now found, was once caught in the Florentine Valley in southern Tasmania and sold to Hobart Zoo in mid-May 1936. In a press release It says the sale was not recorded or published by the zoo because capturing the animals was illegal even then and the hunter could have been fined. “The thylacine lived only a few months,” Paddle said. When the animal died, its body was taken to the museum. But even though it was not catalogued, museum curators and researchers would have searched for the remains for years without success, eventually assuming the body had been discarded.

The mystery was finally solved thanks to an unpublished report from a museum taxidermist in 1936/1937, in which said female thylacine was mentioned in the list of specimens processed during the year. All thylacine skins and skeletons in the museum collection were then examined and the specimen discovered. The remains have now been stored in special acid-free boxes and in the dark to prevent further deterioration. Medlock and Paddle plan to publish the results of their research in the Australian Zoologist magazine.

Can the Thylacine be reincarnated?

In August it was announced that Researchers from the University of Melbourne, together with the Texas company Colossal Biosciences, are trying to bring the animal back to life. The process aims to take stem cells from a living marsupial species with similar DNA – the narrow-footed marsupial mouse. The team then hopes to reconstruct the thylacine using stem cells and gene-editing technology. The new project is possible thanks to a multi-million dollar donation.

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However, other researchers reacted with skepticism to the announcement from Melbourne and described a “rebirth” of the animals as “science fiction”. Bringing extinct animals back to life is “a fairytale science,” said Jeremy Austin of the Australian Center for Ancient DNA.Sydney Morning Herald” back then. In fact, science has so far failed to “bring back” extinct animals. Similar attempts to revive the woolly mammoth, for example, have so far been unsuccessful. In the case of the Tasmanian tiger, experiments have also been unsuccessful over the past 20 years: the Australian Museum, for example, tried to clone the animals. The project was discontinued in 2005.

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