Scientists Bringing Tasmanian Tigers Back From Extinction

One genetic engineering and de-extinction company is on a mission to change the status of the Tasmanian tiger, a carnivorous marsupial native to Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. The successful birth of a thylacine, better known as a Tasmanian Tiger will introduce new marsupial-assisted reproductive technology.

Colossal is restoring Tasmanian tigers to the Australian wilderness.

This is the second de-extinction project from Colossal, which announced plans to restore the woolly mammoth to the Arctic Tundra in September 2021.

Learn how they plan to do it in this interview with marsupial evolutionary biologist Andrew Pask, Ph.D. and Colossal Co-Founder Ben Lamm.

PASK: “De-Extinction is distinct from cloning in that we don’t have a living cell from our extinct animal to start the process. We use standard stem cell and reproductive techniques to turn that cell back into a living animal.”

LAMM: “Our goals are to get as close as possible to the original, extinct species in terms of size, shape, and behavior. We are also bringing back genes and phenotypes that were extinct.”

LAMM: De-extinction work benefits local ecosystems, the broader conservation community, and Colossal is developing technologies to support marsupial conservation efforts, such as an exo-pouch for thylacine joeys and full-stage artificial wombs for Tasmanian devil joeys.

PASK: “Humans are rapidly changing the environment. We need to develop technologies to save marsupial species from extinction, such as creating marsupial stem cells from frozen tissue or using genome editing to increase genetic diversity.”

PASK: We can’t create life from dead cells, so we need to use living cells from the closest living relative of the extinct animal to build a genome. The thylacine is a relatively recent extinction, so we have many samples in museum collections.

LAMM is working with Dr. Pask and University of Melbourne to bring back a proxy for the thylacine, which went extinct in 1936 due to human hunting. Pask’s work on the thylacine makes him the best subject matter expert we could have imagined.

PASK: When an ecosystem becomes unbalanced by the loss of an apex predator, the ripple effects across the ecosystem are immeasurable, and the rewilding of the wolves into Yellowstone has shown us how vital and complex some of these interactions can be.

PASK: The Tasmanian tiger is the only marsupial apex predator that lived in modern times, so it’s very difficult to predict what a non-native predator might do to the ecosystem.

LAMM is hoping to get our first mammoth calves in the next five to six years. The thylacine could be one of the first animals to be brought back.

PASK: “Returning the thylacine to its natural habitat would have a positive impact on the ecosystem, and would help prevent further damage to the environment.”

For more on this story, please consider these sources:

  1. Scientists vow to bring Tasmanian tiger back from extinction  Financial Times
  2. Genetics Company Wants To Bring Iconic Tasmanian Tiger Back From Extinction  Newsweek
  3. Scientists, A Startup, And the Hemsworths Are Trying to ‘De-Extinct’ the Tasmanian Tiger  VICE
  4. Scientists Are Resurrecting the Tasmanian Tiger from Extinction  Discovery
  5. Chris Hemsworth hypes revival of extinct, ‘iconic’ Tasmanian tiger  New York Post
John Nightbridge is a veteran reporter, researcher, and economic policy major from UCLA. Passionate about world issues and potential ways to solve them is a significant focus of his work. Writing freelance and reading the news are John's passions at work. Outside of work, it's all about sky diving, surfing, and stock market modeling.