Efforts Are Underway to 'De-Extinct' Tasmanian Tiger

Species has been extinct for almost a century
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2022 1:55 PM CDT
Biotech Firm Thinks It Can 'De-Extinct' This Animal
This Tasmanian tiger was shipped to the National Museum of Natural History in 1902.   (Smithsonian Open Access)

The thylacine, a striped, wolf-like animal better known as the Tasmanian tiger, once roamed the Australian mainland as well as the islands of Tasmania and New Guinea. A Texas-based biosciences startup says they could be back within 10 years. The last known thylacine died in a zoo in 1936, but Colossal Biosciences, which is working with scientists at the University of Melbourne, says it could be brought back with gene-editing technology and stem cells from the carnivorous marsupial's living relatives, the BBC reports.

"I now believe that in 10 years' time we could have our first living baby thylacine since they were hunted to extinction close to a century ago," said Professor Andrew Pask, an evolutionary biologist who is leading the research. Colossal chief executive Ben Lamm, a tech and software entrepreneur, tells the Guardian that it could be possible in just six years. "I think it’s highly probable this could be the first animal we de-extinct," he says. Success will depend on Colossal achieving several scientific breakthroughs, however, and some experts have dismissed the efforts as "fairytale science." The company is also trying to bring back the woolly mammoth.

Colossal, founded by Lamm and Harvard geneticist George Church, launched in September 2021 and raised $60 million in funding earlier this year, with investors including Paris Hilton and the celebrity Hemsworth family, Bloomberg reports. "The Tassie Tiger’s extinction had a devastating effect on our ecosystem and we are thrilled to support the revolutionary conservation efforts that are being made by Dr. Pask and the entire Colossal team," Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, said in a statement. (There were two unconfirmed thylacine sightings in northern Australia in 2017.)

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