Scientists claim they will be able to clone genes of extinct tiger

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The Independent Online

Scientists are a step closer to rescuing the genes of an extinct species after a breakthrough by an Australian team trying to clone the Tasmanian Tiger, which was wiped out nearly 70 years ago.

Scientists are a step closer to rescuing the genes of an extinct species after a breakthrough by an Australian team trying to clone the Tasmanian Tiger, which was wiped out nearly 70 years ago.

The team, based at the Australian Museum in Sydney, said yesterday it had succeeded in replicating some of the animal's genes, using DNA extracted from preserved specimens. Professor Mike Archer, director of the museum, said the first cloned animal could be born within a decade, a claim other scientists have cast doubt on.

The Tasmanian Tiger, also known as the thylacine, was a carnivorous marsupial that ran like a wolf and had a pouch like a kangaroo. Farmers blaming them for attacks on sheep shot, poisoned, gassed and trapped them into extinction. The last known animal died in Hobart Zoo, Tasmania, in 1936.

The project to resurrect it began in 1999, when scientists extracted DNA from a 130-year-old female pup bottled in alcohol. Professor Archer said they were now sure the "supposedly extinct" DNA was usable and could eventually be implanted in a living host, such as the Tasmanian Devil, a related animal. "This is indescribably exciting," he said. "It makes molecule cloning possible. What was once an impossible dream has taken a giant step closer to becoming biological reality."

He said the work was further advanced than any remotely similar project elsewhere. "We can now begin construction of a living DNA library that will contain the entire recipe for recreation."

The scientists believe there are enough preserved specimens to produce a genetically diverse population of Tasmanian Tigers that could thrive in the wild. "I don't know whether we will succeed in the ultimate goal, but we are moving forward."

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