The Thylacine Museum
August 1, 2002 12:22 PM   Subscribe

The Thylacine Museum is a true labour of love. Everything you could possibly want to know about the thylacine (AKA "Tasmanian tiger" or "Tasmanian wolf"). Able to open its mouth incredibly wide, sit upright on its hind legs like a kangaroo, and a foremost example of convergent evolution (extremely similar to placental mammals like wolves, yet marsupial), the thylacine was a fascinating animal. Hunted to extinction in less than a hundred years (or not), a cloning project is underway to try and resurrect it. This site has everything: videos, Java-riffic skull diagrams, pictures of mummified thylacines who died over 4,000 years ago, and pictures of Benjamin, the last captive thylacine who died in 1936.
posted by biscotti (24 comments total)
but it's really all about the diprotodon....i mean a wombat the size of a hippo? that's cool.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 12:27 PM on August 1, 2002

The thylacine can also spin around in a circle so fast that it forms a hurricane, and use this method to travel great distances with limited effort.
posted by Marquis at 12:34 PM on August 1, 2002

Sad, sad, sad. Hopefully the cloning project works out (might get the dodo back, too).

That jaw picture is my new wallpaper (tho' I had to go elsewhere to get it since right-clicking is disabled).
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:43 PM on August 1, 2002

Wow...they're pretty serious about protecting the pictures on that page. The JavaScript that they use to munge the pictures if you click is even obfuscated...
posted by pizzasub at 12:49 PM on August 1, 2002

Good one, Marquis! Did you find that fact where I found out that thylacines are physically attracted to bunnies wearing blonde wigs and bear traps for teeth?
posted by byort at 12:50 PM on August 1, 2002

These things are weird and sorta cute. I remember seeing a story about these on an Animal Planet show a while back, including a segment about the pickled one- which is actually quite beautiful in an odd way- that is being used for the DNA extraction. Here's hoping the project is successful.
posted by evanizer at 12:52 PM on August 1, 2002

Thylacine=Tasmanian Wolf
Taz=Tasmanian Devil

brought to you by the Association for Nit-picking Anecdotes and Levity
posted by vacapinta at 1:06 PM on August 1, 2002

Fantastic resource, biscotti. Sites like this are why I love the Web (and MeFi). That huge "threat yawn" is one of the scariest animal behaviors I can imagine.

right-clicking is disabled

Hell, it won't even let me hit the "Ctrl" button without throwing up a warning. In IE, you have to go to the Edit menu to "Find" text on these pages, or open a new browser, or anything non-copyright infringing that you normally use "Ctrl-*" to do. Talk about a ridiculously intrusive tactic.
posted by mediareport at 1:08 PM on August 1, 2002

posted by UncleFes at 1:50 PM on August 1, 2002

Thank you so much for this...excellent link.
posted by ltracey at 4:00 PM on August 1, 2002

Strange to think they weren't extinct all that long ago.

I have this great illustrated animal book from 1910 or so, and there's an entire page dedicated to the Tasmanian Wolf- that was still around at the time.

I wouls love to see a cloning success in this case. Usually I've leary or the whole cloning issue-but damn, we need these guys back!
posted by Windigo at 4:16 PM on August 1, 2002

I saw a special on the discovery channel about this cloning project recently. The people behind it seemed to be, well... a bit heavy on the hype and the "we're so incredibly brilliant for doing this, aren't we special" kind of attitude. It sorta rubbed me the wrong way.

But then, what do I know?

I wonder if all the money, expertise, and time that they're throwing at this project might be better spent working on a species that isn't extinct yet.

What I mean is, choose something that has at least a dozen or so individuals, so you have multiple chances of helping a cloned embryo to implant in the actual same species, and work on perfecting _that_ technology before you start going way the hell out on a limb trying to get foreign embryos to implant in animals that are kinda-sorta similar (something which is failing 100% of the time now, from what I know).

I mean, how many species are going to go extinct while these guys beat their heads against the wall called Thylacine?

Doesn't make sense to me. Especially since the thylacines aren't getting any deader. Really.
posted by beth at 7:11 PM on August 1, 2002

Interesting suggestion, beth, but it raises one question: why would you want to experiment with implanting cloned embryos into one of the few remaining members of a species that's near extinction?
posted by mediareport at 7:17 PM on August 1, 2002

[sigh] Slashdotted.

I wonder how they'd look wearing kimonos?
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:09 PM on August 1, 2002

biscotti, thank you SO much---I've always been intrigued by the Tasmanian wolf/tiger but I had no idea there were actual movies of it in existence! Remarkable to see films of them; heart-breaking to watch them pace.
(Thanks vacapinta for the tasmanian devil movie, too.)
I got half a dozen "fatal errors" watching the thylacine and tasmanian devil movies but they WELL were worth the screaming heebie-jeebies.
...I wish I believed that cloning could bring back an extinct species but I don't.
posted by realjanetkagan at 9:14 PM on August 1, 2002

why would you want to experiment with implanting cloned embryos into one of the few remaining members of a species that's near extinction?

Ummm, to make more of them? :)

I dunno, there might be a scenario where it makes sense. Say you have one mother who is very successful at raising babies, and by making copies of her you get more successful moms.

Perhaps that mom has a really great immune system or whatever, and that by cloning her you really increase your chances of helping the species to come back from the brink.

Maybe it would just buy you a little more time, in a way. And maybe that's needed. Maybe one really great female (or male) with really wonderful genes that are well suited for survival, should take precedence over unknown genetic combinations when you have so few opportunities.
posted by beth at 9:22 PM on August 1, 2002

Perhaps that mom has a really great immune system or whatever, and that by cloning her you really increase your chances of helping the species to come back from the brink.

What I don't get is the need to implant the clone in a member of the "actual same species." Wouldn't focusing on perfecting the implantation-in-sorta-similar-species method make more sense? Multiple pregnancies are hard on an animal's body, so why put a member of an endangered species at risk?

Then there's the real problem: habitat destruction. What's the point of helping species survive via cloning if we don't have anywhere to put them?
posted by mediareport at 11:41 PM on August 1, 2002

the site has been mefi-ed:
"Due to an overwhelming increase in recent bandwidth usage, it has become necessary to temporarily close this site. My site's hosting service is not able to accommodate the current level of traffic."
posted by talos at 5:06 AM on August 2, 2002

Wouldn't focusing on perfecting the implantation-in-sorta-similar-species method make more sense?

Yes, especially if it's a marsupial, which it seems are actually relatively easy to mix and match in this manner. In this case, it seems possible that they'll manage to clone successfully, since they have lots of tissue in reasonably good condition (preserved in alcohol, not formalin, so its DNA is preserved, but damaged) and a pretty good surrogate candidate (they're planning to use a Tasmanian Devil, another carnivorous marsupial, for egg donation and surrogacy). Interesting discussion with scientists here.

Too bad the site's been mefi-ed, I feel a bit badly about that.
posted by biscotti at 7:10 AM on August 2, 2002

There is also a quicktime movie available here
posted by Tarrama at 7:12 AM on August 2, 2002

You guys are making me homesick.

More thylacine pictures here. The Weaver photograph is available as a poster from the Tas Museum; used to have it on my bedroom door, and not because I admired the hunter.

There have been quite a few unconfirmed sightings. Eric Guiler's books are a good source. My dad still wonders about that stripey dog he saw in the rear-view mirror of his Land-Rover up in the northwest in the early 1970s.
posted by rory at 8:09 AM on August 2, 2002

A useful overview from Tasmania's Parks and Wildlife Service, for those waiting for the main link to come back up.
posted by rory at 8:22 AM on August 2, 2002

Oh shit. I'd missed this news. 'It is estimated that 12-19 foxes may be in the State.' Damn it. The absence of foxes in Tas is about the only reason why the thylacine is the only mammal species that the state has lost since white settlement.

Goodbye, pademelons and bandies.

Who the hell brought foxes in sometime in the past year or two?
posted by rory at 8:38 AM on August 2, 2002

Psst...It's back.
posted by mediareport at 6:59 AM on August 4, 2002

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