Tasmanian Tiger Extinct or Not
March 27, 2005 3:40 AM   Subscribe

The Tasmanian Tiger or thylacine [Thylacinus cynocephalus], a marsupial, was thought to have become extinct when the last known animal died in captivity from exposure in 1936. There have been numerous alleged sightings since. A German tourist supposedly photographed one recently (free reg.). Now there's a reward out for producing a live specimen but with prohibitive conditions requiring a permit that won't be issued. The thylacine cloning project has just been abandoned because the pup (from 1866) was kept in alcohol and not formalin - degrading the DNA.
posted by peacay (16 comments total)
There's allegedly black and white film of the animals here but I can't get it to display - there are quite a few screen caps anyway.
For the enthusiastic there's a free book available in 4 pdf sections.
posted by peacay at 3:44 AM on March 27, 2005

Great FPP on a little noted marsupial regrettably driven to extinction by man. But note that the photograph linked (and on the Australia newspaper's site) is a fake, by the newspaper, in an attempt to see how easily a Tasmanian tiger photo could be faked. The German tourist has not yet released his own photograph. Note also that the Tasmanian tiger's ecological role was more like a wolf or a dog than a tiger (which is emphatically not to say it was more related to a wolf or a dog than a tiger; it wasn't).
posted by orthogonality at 4:09 AM on March 27, 2005

Yeah....it's probably fake - but the guy has gone to ground and full testing (whatever that might mean) of his photograph hasn't been undertaken.
And you're right about that linked pic - I knew the photo editor tried to fake one up but I didn't realize that the German's pic hadn't (to my knowledge) actually been published. The faking might become quite a cottage industry.
posted by peacay at 4:22 AM on March 27, 2005

Oh I forgot.........this has a very good bunch of links (reg. required) on the beastie, touching on all different subjects.
posted by peacay at 4:45 AM on March 27, 2005

Speaking of Tasmanian predators, Tasmanian Devils are dying of a facial cancer that seems to be communicable, spread when the animals fight each other over food or whatnot.
posted by nflorin at 5:26 AM on March 27, 2005

Wow that reward is a terrible idea. Lets get lots of people to tramp through their last remaining habitat!
posted by fshgrl at 5:39 AM on March 27, 2005

Really interesting to read.
posted by fenriq at 5:53 AM on March 27, 2005

Something of a tangent, but this reminds me that Graham Parker (yes, of "...and The Rumour" fame) wrote a novel a few years back which featured the sighting and capture of a thylacine. That novel was called The Other Life of Brian and while it had some amusing moments I'd have to say he ought to stick to the music.

I hear he has another one coming out soon. It's called "The Thylacine's Nest". Seems to be something of an interest with Mr. Parker.
posted by Decani at 6:05 AM on March 27, 2005

That last sentence is incorrect. The DNA is relatively undamaged because the pup was kept in alcohol and not formalin. However, the last link says that they think it'd be too hard to do anyway.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:11 AM on March 27, 2005

previous threadfor more info
posted by dmo at 6:16 AM on March 27, 2005

The complete Clone Your Troubles Away article is available online, and was the cover story of the Feb edition of Harper's.

A great read in itself, but they also mention that the alcohol increased the chances of finding DNA as opposed to using formaldehyde.
posted by furtive at 7:13 AM on March 27, 2005

formaline/ethanol: yeah...I misread it.
posted by peacay at 8:10 AM on March 27, 2005

from furtive's link :

"Cloning researchers at the Australian Museum in Sydney hope to re-create the thylacine, a carnivorous marsupial loosely known as the Tasmanian tiger, last seen alive in 1936. For that effort, the starting point is a thylacine pup stored in alcohol since 1866. Alcohol is a gentler preservative than formaldehyde, and the Australians have managed to extract some DNA fragments in fairly good condition--but no complete DNA strands, let alone any viable thylacine cells with nuclei that could be transferred intact. The optimistic Aussies aim to reassemble their squibs and scraps into a full set of thylacine DNA, perhaps patching the gaps with genetic material from other marsupials. Plausible? Not very, according to Ryder. "What's the chance that you could shred the phone book," he asks, "and then drop it out of a window and have it come back together?" Once they have reassembled their phone book, if they do, the Australians will create artificial chromosomes for insertion into an egg from some related species, such as the Tasmanian devil."
posted by peacay at 8:23 AM on March 27, 2005

And lastly: a quicktime movie-1.8Mb from 1933 - looks like a cross between a wolf and a greyhound but with stripes. Check out it's mouth.
posted by peacay at 8:46 AM on March 27, 2005

one more link:
Thylacine cloning project news - Thx for an Interesting post peacay
posted by login at 4:54 AM on March 28, 2005

D'oh! Stupid cut and paste. I should have checked my link. Apologies for the 404. Here's the proper link
posted by login at 4:56 AM on March 28, 2005

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