Explained: How scientists are planning to ‘resurrect’ the extinct Tasmanian Tiger

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained: How scientists are planning to ‘resurrect’ the extinct Tasmanian Tiger” published in Indian Express on 18th August 2022.

What is the News?

Scientists in the US and Australia have embarked on a $15-million project to resurrect the thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger, a marsupial that went extinct in the 1930s, using gene-editing technology. 

What is a Tasmanian Tiger?

Tasmanian Tiger

Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) was a marsupial mammal. It was the only animal in the Thylacinidae family to survive in modern times.

– Note: Marsupial is a mammal of an order whose members are born incompletely developed and are typically carried and suckled in a pouch on the mother’s belly. 

Features: The mammal earned its nickname Tasmanian Tiger because of the stripes along its back. It was a slow-paced carnivorous that usually hunted alone or in pairs at night.

– It had a dog-like head and ate kangaroos, other marsupials, small rodents and birds.

IUCN Status: Extinct (The last Tasmanian tiger died at Hobart Zoo in 1936).

Impact of Extinction: The animal was at the top of the food chain and hence played a significant role in balancing the ecosystem of its habitat by removing the weak animals and maintaining species diversity. 

– Hence, its disappearance from the food chain resulted in Trophic Downgrading (causal degradation of an ecosystem that occurs when higher trophic level animals are removed from the food chain) resulting in loss or exponential growth of other species.

– Trophic Downgrading also results in disruption of biogeochemical cycles, wildfires, growth of invasive species, and carbon sequestration, among other effects.

What are scientists planning to do now?

Scientists in the US and Australia have started a $15-million De-extinction project to resurrect the Tasmanian Tiger using gene-editing technology. 

What is the De-extinction method?

De-extinction or resurrection biology is the method of creating a species that went extinct or is endangered, in order to revitalize ecological diversity and balance shattered due to reasons ranging from biodiversity loss to climate change. 

While cloning is the most widely used method of de-extinction, genome editing and selective breeding are also considered effective ways.

The Pyrenean ibex, a subspecies of Spanish ibex was one of the first extinct animals that have been resurrected using somatic cell nuclear transfer(SCNT), even though the baby Ibex died minutes after its birth from a lung defect.

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