Pask-Yes – a few different marsupial species that burrow have this (wombat for eg.) – presumably so they don’t fill it up with dirt while they are digging.
Q/How did the role of climate (penultimate glacial cycle) accelerate” a decline in diversity ?
Pask-During times of climate and vegetation change populations have to move – food can become scarce and this leads to a decline in animal numbers. This decline in population size often leads to a loss of genetic diversity.
Q-What are the hurdles (and possible time frame) for a cloned thylacine to become a reality?
Pask-Firstly, we cannot clone without a living cell, so the de-extinction projects are creating genomes, rather than cloning a genome. For the mammoth project scientists are using an elephant cell line and adding the changes to make it look like a mammoth genome. A similar approach would be needed for the thylacine. The closest living relative is a numbat and they are anteaters. so not an ideal genome to begin with! Devil has a closer diet. There are a LOT of hurdles. Currently genome editing on the scale needed to make a thylacine-like devil genome is not possible – but there have been huge advances in this space. If it moves forward at the same pace as next-generation sequencing technologies… then it is feasible to think that in a decade (or 2) genome editing of this scale might be possible.
The next hurdles are all associated with what to do with that cell. Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are well developed for placental mammals. Think IVF. This can be done in humans and mice and livestock – but this has not been achieved yet in marsupials. Making recombinant embryos (with different cell types) is also well developed in placental mammals but has not been done in marsupials. We also don’t know a huge amount about the early development of the marsupial embryo and when best to transfer a potential embryo back into the females reproductive tract. We would have to find a good surrogate mum – for both the size of the developing young and time of gestation and pouch exit – to host the embryo. None of these hurdles are trivial.
Q-A very few species have black striped hind quarters, the numbat and the african zebra duiker for instance. These species live in very different ecological niches. Why the similar coat paterns? What is the adaptive 'purpose' of the stripes? Does it have anything to suggest about thylacine ecology/behaviour?
Pask-This is a great question that has stumped scientists for years. The short answer is – we have no idea! Stripes were thought to aid in camouflage or being cryptic while stalking prey, but some good studies in to this phenomenon have never confirmed that stripes give any advantage on that front! So we don’t know! Probably different species have them for different reasons though.
Q-How limiting was the lack of genetic diversity? Was there specific markers for afflictions detected?
Pask-The paper we just published looked at the effective population size – estimating the number of breeding individuals – and we showed it went though a bottle neck, meaning that the numbers got very low. This goes hand-in-hand with a loss of genetic diversity (differences) in the genome. We also published a paper a few years back that did a survey of a lot of museum specimens and looked at a region of their mitochondrial DNA across a broad range of thylacines collected both before and during the bounty (when they were hunted). This confirmed a VERY low amount of genetic diversity in their DNA, even less than we currently see in the devil population which contracted the facial tumour and enables it to spread so readily. So based on a similar marsupial with a similar lack of diversity – this is our marker for population health.
Q-Where did the museum obtain it's sample?
Pask-The specimens comes from a full litter of four pouch young that were received with their mother (C5752) in 1909. All four pouch young were removed from the after their mother was killed in the wild.
Q-Firstly thank you very much Andrew for this, and obviously for your contribution to the subject. I'd like to ask something that has long confused me but which has been discussed in your paper, convergence. in the paper it says 'diet was a significant predictor of cranial shape', but as I understand it the diet as suggested by dentition of thylacines, would have been far less generalist than canids? One quick one, am I correct in understanding that your results suggest that the Thylacinidae are a sister group to the Dasyuridae, and is it the numbat or the devil that's most close to it. OK that was two. Thank you very much.
Pask-Thylacines represent a basal branch of the Dasuromorphs and the numbat is the next and closest branch to the thylacine. Ie. Its closest living relative.
The convergence of skull shape that we see, as measured by similarities in landmarks across the skulls, is driven by diet as large predatory mammals require similar features to allow similar bite forces, muscle attachment sites and other adaptations to deal with the mechanical loading of large prey. The thylacine shared a near identical dental formula (184.108.40.206 / 220.127.116.11) to other closely related taxa, including small insectivorous bandicoots (18.104.22.168 / 22.214.171.124 ), but dissimilar to the canids (126.96.36.199 / 188.8.131.52), however, the teeth have been adapted for carnivory ie have evolved long sharp canines for piercing and jagged molars for tearing flesh - similar to the kinds of tooth structures seen in canids (another example of convergence driven by diet).
Our landmark analyses did not consider tooth type or shape. Skulls are used for lots of things other than just eating/obtaining prey, so there may be other behavioural, physiological and mechanical aspects behind their convergence in skull shape. (answered by Axel Newton and Christy Hipsley who did the skull morphometrics)
Q-What the realistic percentage chance of a cloned thylacine taking its first breath in the next 20 years?
Pask-That’s difficult to answer. See list of hurdles to a previous question above. I do think we will see some de-extinction projects get close within that time frame – like the mammoth – there is a huge effort on that front. My research is not aimed at de-extinction, but I will follow the advances with a great deal of interest!
Q-Do we have knowledge about the relative genetic diversity of museum specimens? If so does it show a lack of diversity across samples?
Pask-Yes. We did deep sampling and they concur with VERY low genetic diversity estimates – see above. This diversity was limited both before and during them being hunted to extinction. (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0035433)
Q-In the unlikely event that thylacines were re-discovered in the wild would cloning help supplement, from a genetic point of view what would be a population in crisis?
Pask-The whole process is MUCH easier if there were a living animal discovered. Yes the species would still be in very bad genetic shape, but under proper management even species with just a few animals left – like the cheetah can survive.
Q-Are there avenues of funding readily available to undertake your work - if so what is the major source of the funding?
Pask-The thylacine has never been funded by either of the major grant schemes (ARC or NHMRC) who fund the majority of Australian science. Most of my basic marsupial biology research has been funded by the ARC. The thylacine work was funded from university funds that I was awarded over the years. It has been a real labour of love project for me. I am fascinated by the thylacine and what we can learn from this unique species!
Q-Is work on bringing back other extinct species a help to your work - i.e., general advancements in technology and knowledge that can be applied to your work?
Pask-Definitely. De-extinction is not the goal of my research on the thylacine. But I will watch the de-extinction literature closely. There are big teams of outstanding researchers working on ways to facilitate the process of de-extinction and they have made some amazing progress. As you can see from my response above – even with the tech to make a thylacine-like cell – we still have a lot of hurdles before we could bring one back…
Q-What is the ultimate goal? Is it to learn more about DNA, genetics, cloning, or is it to return the animal from extinction?
Pask-My lab studies evolution and development – Evo-Devo. We have the complete genomes now of 1000s of species, but we still don’t understand a lot about how the genome functions. My main interest with the thylacine is because it is an extreme example of convergence with the dogs. This enables us to ask a simple question. When two species evolve to look nearly identical, do you also see the same changes in their DNA to get to that body form. Then we can ask, where are those changes in the genome? Together this information can tell us how evolution actually works at the DNA level. This has lots of implications for understanding the function of our own genome and defining regions of the genome important in development and disease.
Q-Why are you personally motivated to undertake this work?
Pask-I have always been fascinated by the thylacine (like many of you!). I did some work over a decade ago showing that we could get viable thylacine DNA from the museum specimens and resurrect its function in transgenic mice. However, at this time it was not possible to sequence the genome from such a fragmented sample (broken up bits of DNA). But the DNA sequencing tech changed so much in the past decade that this became easily achievable. Doing this project I not only got to persue one of my main research objectives looking at evo-devo of the genome, but also got to learn so much more about the biology of the thylacine. This is something we will continue to uncover with our work moving forward.
Q-Why choose the thylacine?
Pask-Because it is the BEST example of convergence that we know of in the mammals. See above.
Q-Original work on cloning the thylacine was launched with much fan fare as 'the end of extinction' did the media attention and the subsequent stalling of that project help or hinder your work? Was any of the work undertaken by the previous research useable?
Pask-Nothing was ever published from the study you mentioned so there was no useable data for us. When the first attempt was launched, genome sequencing was still in its infancy and such an undertaking would have cost hundreds of millions. The only affect on our work from this is that people assume we are also working on de-extinction which is still a long ways off for the thylacine.
Q-The palynological reference for the penultimate glacial cycle was from southeastern South Australian and western Victorian region.
Was it hard to extrapolate from those two regions to the rest of Australia ?
Pask-These events affect temperature on a global scale and so the effects of the cycle would have altered vegetation and habitats across the continent. Still, these are only correlates that we have drawn that coincide with the population drop.
How many documentaries on the thylacine is he aware of?
By documentaries I understand movie or video recordings. There have been at least 40 documentaries from the early days of film and TV that I know of. There would be others both local and done overseas that I do not know of. I have been involved with at least 15
Has anyone played a sound for you that you thought was possibly thylacine?
No I have had sounds played to me that I have not heard before but none match what was reported for Thylacine. Thylacine have distinctive feet - in your view do the planter pad to toe pad ratios of 1:6 to 1:7 for thylacine feet make sense in comparison to canine of 1:2 to 1:3? Yes and they apply for all quadruped marsupials I have examine. I have found no overlap between equivalent prints for dog and those marsupials. With the Thylacine jaw structure not being as powerful as wolves or dogs do you believe they preyed more on small mammals, and fowl instead of Kangaroos or Wallabies.
It was only ever modelled or projected as not being as powerful – never directly measured. Thylacines were large animals – up to 35kg. Even if not as bite-strong as the same sized canid they still have an impressive jaw and large teeth so I expect they could kill prey as large as themselves. They of course can also kill much smaller things. I also expect they took what was most available so would concentrate on different prey in different places, just like most predators do. Remember canids kill very large prey by ripping but thylacines would have been restricted to a heavy bite and maybe shake. The narrow muzzle suggests precision to me so I suggest they focused on animals about half their own weight killing with a big, precise bite. Wallabies fit that prey description. There are direct observations of them killing large animals including hunting dogs so I am not enthusiastic in using modelling instead of direct observation. If the modelling conflicts with direct observation maybe the modelling has to be revisited and the direct observation too. Differences can be resolved by applying about the normal curve - most Thylacine prey would be smaller than the thylacine but some would be larger and some much smaller. Devils kill much larger animals if they are partially incapacitated but also kill tadpoles. Animals motives (hunger) also effects what they may do. Young raptors often kill larger things than do older, more experienced individuals but if they survive, eventually learn what is safe to kill. Prey populations and therefore availability also change seasonally and year to year and predators have to be flexible enough to encompass this.
With the extinction of the Tasmanian Emu do you believe this had a detrimental affect on the Thylacines food source
I doubt they killed adult emus very often. They are dangerous prey.
Any thoughts on the Attard study which showed that the structure of the skull and jaws are relatively weaker than those of a similarly sized canid.
Comments as above.
Regarding the supposed shooting/discovery of a Thylacine's body (or possibly more than one even) at Adamsfield in 1990, did you ever have sight of the series of photos that were supposedly taken of it at the time and/or did you/the department officially investigate that situation at all? Any thoughts or conclusions would be appreciated. We were not told about it. The first supposed photos I saw were associated with comments from Col bailey only a few years ago. I still do not know who supposedly did the shooting /made the discovery and have not seen the original photos.
Can he give the approx dates of the large private expeditions that seem to remain somewhat classified.
Most expeditions were private and its up to those ‘owning’ them to talk about or not. They sometimes contacted the department or even me privately and request confidentiality. By large I understand not $ spent but area covered with reasonable effort. One might also say 10000 camera nights (eg 10 cameras for 1000 nights) is large. Peter Wright did a large one in the mid 1980s, Dave Watts and Stew Blackhall did several through the early 1990s, there was a French one in the mid 1990s using a pet sheep as a lure. Ned terry did several large expeditions through the 1990s and early 2000s. So called ‘Tigerman’ reportedly did his own through the early/mid 2000s although being anonymous its impossible to know if they were real expeditions. There are scores if not hundreds of cameras out there these days, most private. I am in contact with 3 ongoing searches by enthusiasts. I’d call them large searches because they go on for a long time, as above. No doubt I simply don’t know of others. Some of what of seem large searches because of the publicity prove to be very small if done at all. If he had to look for a thylacine today where would he look?
Aha! One might consider a place with lots of wallabies and possums and refuges that is large enough to contain at least say 10 Thylacines in contact but small or remote enough to have those thylacines overlooked. Much of coastal western Tasmania suits that as does some patches of decent soils (which concentrate values) in the highlands and mid south. The good soils of Granville Hbr are an example but they are farmed with people living there so I doubt thylacines are overlooked there. However, and it’s a big HOWEVER, we are simply not as good as we think we are at finding very rare things.
Is there any reason to suspect the disease which affected the thylacine in the early part of the century had any connection with the decline in devil numbers in 1950? In either case, if the 1950 decline is attributable to disease do we have any what it was?
The supposed disease(s) were not properly recorded and it can only be speculated what impact they had. Mostly we just have some anecdotes – there were no even vaguely consistent measures of abundance. The current devil disease DFTD is obvious but such a disease doesn’t have to be obvious (eg a more visibly subtle or internal caner). Maybe it was something like that. Some marsupials are inclined to pneumonia even in apparent epidemics. Perhaps toxoplasmosis had a very high impact early in its career here. Distemper seems very unlikely to jump from eutherian to marsupial. Do you still search for thylacines in your private time ? Occasionally but more in the course of doing other surveys or having fun in the bush. I help monitor devils and other wildlife and do some mine assessments in remote areas so always keep an eye out. Footprints are my key expertise.
What is your best thylacine report after Hans Naarding..?
There are many arguably better because they simply had multiple observers none of whom knew anything about thylacines but just reported what they saw. Hans would likely agree with that. I have one daytime report from near Zeehan of 2 cars with 7 people (who didn’t know each other car to car) the first car passing the animal standing on the roadside and stopping and the second parking before it. Daytime. Each car was 20 m from the animal by my reconstruction and they had 7 seconds view. So they were either right or lying.
If you had to put a %, how certain are you that 1080 isn't going to affect the native wildlife? Any idea what caused the drop off in sighting reports from the 80's to the 90's?
1080 is much misunderstood. It is found in some Australian plants as a plant defence against browsers. So most Australian animals have evolutionary exposure and some resistance. Devils for instance are, kg for kg about 34 times as resistant as a dog (with no evolutionary exposure). Wedge-tailed eagles have one of the highest resistances of any bird or mammal, much higher than say Golden eagles which not being in Australia have very little resistance. Herbivores are less resistant than most carnivores. This means amounts that might harm wallabies probably won’t harm devils or our eagles but might kill dogs. The amount ingested per size of the individual animal and that individuals health and fitness and that species’ physiological resistance governs what happens.High doses of 1080 were (and still are sometimes I think) used to systematically kill wallabies but there has NEVER been a native carnivore proven to be killed by one of these operational culls. Devils are very resistant spotted tailed quolls and eastern quolls somewat less resistant. We can speculate where Thylacines sat but its likely they too had considerable resistance. None has resistance to say Strychnine. The widespread rabbit strychnine poisonings of the 50s, 60s and later other synthetic poisons could have been very damaging to remaining Thylacines.The 80s and 90s saw much (illegal) poisoning of devils eagles and ravens using organophosphates, deadly to everything. But it was still mostly in rural areas. I’m not sure sighting did drop off in that period although reports did. That period also saw a cynicism and scepticism enter Tasmania, something for which we are now (in)famous, and with it maybe came enhanced reluctance to expose oneself to ridicule. Hence less reports. Once the department paid the issue less attention (by the mid1990s) then reports drifted towards private enthusiasts. I suspect there are just as many ‘events’ now and they are reported as often but those reports are dispersed and kept private.
Author/member/thylacine fan.. Tony Black
was kind enough to answer a few questions about his book "The Last
Tiger" which is getting rave reviews on Amazon UK..see end of post.
Q-I was looking at your impressive list of crime novellas, short stories and books etc, what is the final count?
Tony Black-I think I'm up to 14 novels now, but I haven't counted up
all the smaller stuff. The latest one is called Bay of Martyrs and is
set in SW Victoria. I co-authored this with an Aussie writer called Matt
Neal and it just came out here in the UK a week ago.
Q-What led you to writing as a career?
Tony-A complete lack of any other skills, to be brutally honest. I
think I realised fairly early on that I wasn't going to get called up by
Liverpool to pull on the red jersey, so writing jumped up the scale of
Q-How did you get interested initially into writing a book about thylacines?
Tony-I used to work on a paper in SW Victoria called The Standard and
when I was there I wrote several stories about strange animal sightings
in the district that the locals thought were the thylacine. I started to
dig into the subject and was immediately hooked. It's a tragic story,
something that should never have happened, and it struck a chord with
me, on a very deep level, that is still resonating today.
Q-What research did that entail?
Tony-Initially, I went to the library in Warrnambool where I was
staying and started to work my way through a shelf of books. In time I
ended up talking to a lot of researchers and corresponded a little with
Col Bailey, who I regard as one of the leading experts on the subject
anywhere in the world. I was extremely flattered that Col rated The Last
Tiger so highly because if anyone is qualified to pick apart my
research it's him.
Q-Have you been to Tasmania or are you planning to go one day?
Tony-Yes, I've been to Tasmania and I've met up with Col, which was a
great honour after all he's done for the subject of the thylacine. I'm
planning another trip before the end of the year, once I get all my
ducks in a row,
Q-Reviews of The Last Tiger on Amazon.UK are amazing, you must be proud of this sort of reader feedback.
Tony-Yes, of all my books I'd say The Last Tiger is the one that I held
closest to my heart. The only other one that comes anywhere near is His
Father's Son - also set in Australia - because it's dedicated to my
son. The Last Tiger did get some great reviews and was runner-up in Not
the Booker Prize (it won the popular vote by a mile, but that's another
story!) so I can't complain about the critical response at all.
Q-Have any readers ever contacted you with thylacine claims?
Tony-Yes. Quite a few over the years. When I was working for The
Standard, after my first story on SW thylacine sightings, I was
inundated for a little while. I remember one old bloke coming in to the
paper to tell me he saw a thylacine when it was brought to town by a
travelling circus in the 1930s. He was still moved by that creature,
spoke about how sad it looked in the cage the circus kept it in.
Q-Your writing skills are impressive enough to make some of your reviewers cry?
Tony-Hopefully for the right reasons! The agent I had when I wrote The
Last Tiger was over in America, a really lovely woman, and she still
tells me how moved she was by the book. She'll warn people who post on
Facebook that they've just bought The Last Tiger to make sure they have a
box of tissues to hand. I'd like to claim it's down to my writing but I
think the story we all know of the demise of the thylacine is the real
Q-Any more books on the tiger in the pipeline?
Tony-No, I'm afraid not. I'm not done with the thylacine, but it's a
subject I think I've exhausted in The Last Tiger. The final chapter
does, however, leave the door open for an addition to the story, a last
hurrah for the thylacine if you like, I think we'd all like to see that
chapter added to the story, one day.
Thanks for yout time Tony ! https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/cka/Last-Tiger-Tony-Black/1908885556
Thats not a typo. I really meant Tails. Here is the thing. You find a photo like this below
The hunt for the australian tasmanian tiger
And you would look at the tail and go "okay, thylacines have striped tails". And that would appear be a logical statement... But then you notice that not all thylacine speciments have striped tails...actually the majority do not. So what gives...? Simple.. They dont..what photos we have of the animals alive..and short 8mm film clips...that appear to show a striped tail..are actually just showing the vertabrae shadow under the skin. But back to the photo. The stripes are painted on...thanks to the work of Cameron Campbell and Dr Sleighholme we know that the animal above is "the specimen is listed in the ITSD as the thylacine in Walter Rothschild's collection in Tring (Hertfordshire in the UK .The stripes on this specimen have been painted on, and are not due to natural pigment." And then Cameron kindly provided this next photo.
The hunt for the australian tasmanian tiger
There are one or two other taxidermy specimens where this has been done. The other specimen that comes to mind is the taxidermy in the National Museum of Ireland, in which the stripes continue along the full length of the tail (photo attached). You will never find this anomaly on any of the specimen skins, or for that matter, in a living thylacine. The worlds greatest data base on the thylacine is this site
have got our answers back from Professor Mike Archer.
Its quite a read but is
very informative and well worth the time. We are very lucky to have had
this shared with us.
Is the cloning project being resurrected now
that the entire thylacine genome has been sequenced?What is the
likelihood that thylacines can be successfully cloned now?
See the attached document I’ve sent. The entire nuclear genome hasn’t
yet been sequenced but people are working on it. The mitochondrial
genome has been sequenced and published by a team from the US. I’m
convinced we will have them back in the future but have no idea when
this may happen—but probably sooner than later!
Can you put a time frame on it? If one day successful can a viable population be sustained, considering the limited gene pool?
Mike: If one can be produced, hundreds can. Almost all specimens in
museums and private collections will have recoverable DNA hence males,
females and genetic variation can be recovered. But do we even need
genetic variation? All cheetahs are virtually genetically identical and
they’re doing fine.
If the cloning project were ever to go ahead,
given that any host animal would be quite removed from the thylacine,
how would you address the issue of hormonal regulation during the
Mike: I don’t think this would cause any problem that
couldn’t be, if necessary, artificially managed. In any case, you only
have do this twice and they’ll be producing their own biochemical
chemistry from that point on. Recent assessment suggests that Thylacines
and Devils are sufficiently close enough to each other phylogenetically
(same superfamily of marsupials, the Dasyuromorphia), with the
thylacinid and dasyurid lineages separating perhaps no more than 35
million years ago, that a hybrid embryo involving a Devil egg and
Thylacine DNA would almost certainly work.
To what degree does Prof. Archer hope to be involved with any future cloning attempt?
Mike: I’m first in line to pat the first one off the assembly line.
Then I’m first in line for the first ones excess individuals beyond
those used to restore Thylacines to the wild to have one as a pet.
Can he see the government funding a event search in Tasmania for a live
specimen and what does he think about so many sightings that have been
Mike: I’m not a great believer in the survival of
Thylacines, although Col Bailey, who I do want to believe, has told me
he saw one while he was having a pee in a remote corner of Tasmania.
Apart from his claim, the others don’t stand up to examination. Show me
the ‘money’, i.e. the hard evidence—hair, bones, flesh, poo. But nothing
produced so far has convinced any biologist that they survived past the
1930s. There are lots of arguments for why it is almost impossible that
they did survive, but that’s another issue.
superfoetal (birthed many joeys)and if so and fused onto the teat for a
period of weeks like other m carnivores?
Mike: Probably they did
produce more young at birth than they had nipples available. This is not
uncommon in some of the carnivorous marsupials. But like any other
carnivorous marsupials, the young would attach to a nipple and develop
in the mother’s pouch for months before coming out to forage on their
own. All of these behaviours would be hard-wired in the DNA of the
Thylacine. These are not ‘taught’ behaviours.
marsupial carnivores like devil and quoll don't moult and have the same
double coat throughout their lives, is there any evidence that thylacine
would have had a summer and winter coat?
Mike: I don’t know the
answer to that. You might check Bob Paddle’s book ‘The Last Thylacine’,
or ask Dr Stephen Sleightholme who you can contact via the web link ‘The
International Thylacine Database’. Stephen knows everything!
Would you like to be in an episode of Hunt for The Tasmanian Tiger ?
Mike: Not a chance, unless it were to be a total skeptic or put the
skeptic’s point of view. I’ve been involved in a lot of these things.
You’ll find some of them in that document I sent with this email. The
most recent one I haven’t noted is with a Japanese film company late
last year. They did interview me extensively in UNSW. They also left
cameras set up in the bush on the presumption that they would catch one
in pictures. Needless to say, they haven’t had any success. The reason
is that Thylacines are so smart they have found out how to use digital
cameras and know how to erase images they don’t want anyone to see.
Professor Archer also had this information to add....
The Lazarus and Thylacine DeExtinction Projects
The TED talk I gave via the TEDx DeExtinction event held on 15 March 2013 can be accessed either via http://www.ted.com/…/michael_archer_how_we_ll_resurrect_the… or http://www.ted.com/tedx/events/7650.
A newspaper story by Nicky Phillips that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 March, 2013 (p. 1), is available online: http://www.smh.com.au/…/extinct-frog-hops-back-into-the-gen….
Another by Lisa Clauson that explores a range of issues related to the
Lazarus Project appeared in various media on 22 June, 2013: http://www.smh.com.au/n…/waking-the-dead-20130617-2ocz4.html. Qantas Magazine also did a short feature article on the Lazarus Project: http://travelinsider.qantas.com.au/bright_ideas_scientist_m…
. A documentary about the current state of the Lazarus Project prepared
by Visionquest Pty Ltd which was released as a co-production with the
Australian Broadcasting Commission on 7 March, 2017. Another short web
document with some simple animation, intended for the general public,
was produced by the University of New South Wales and can be accessed
Guinness World Records 2016 includes the Lazarus Project for a new
world record: ‘First living embryo grown from an extinct frog’.
There is an earlier Discovery Channel documentary about the Thylacine Project: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3gNW7LbO0M.
More recently (2016), Fivethirtyeight has produced a short TV
documentary about the idea or recovering ancient DNA from Thylacines to
try to bring them back to life: http://fivethirtyeight.com/…/the-scientist-trying-to-rever…/.
For what it’s worth, you can hear a debate between me and the Executive
Editor of Scientific American about the merits of deExtinction occurred
on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (http://www.cbc.ca/toothandclaw/popupaudio.html…). Another web discussion about DeExtinction was released in 2017 by the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04tv5vl. Its focus was (I think—haven’t listened to it yet!) on mammoths, passenger pigeons and the Bucardo among others.
In November, 2013, Time Magazine announced that the Lazarus Project was one of world’s 25 best ‘inventions’ for 2013 (http://phys.org/news/2013-11-lazarus-frog-resurrection.html) and one of the five featured online (http://techland.time.com/…/the-25-best-inventions-of-the-y…/). The Australian Science Media Centre has also listed the Lazarus Project as one the top 10 science stories for 2013 (http://www.smc.org.au/2013/12/top-ten-science-stories-2013/…).
Revive & Restore was the main organizer of the TEDxDeExtinction
event in Washington, DC on March 15th. If you are looking at the field
of deExtinction more generally, and where it is headed, then Revive's
co-founders Stewart Brand or Ryan Phelan are important spokespeople for
the overall concept of deExtinction. A 17 May, 2013, summary by David
Biello of all of the talks given at this event can be seen at http://longnow.org/…/tedxdeextinction/tedxdeextinction-2013/.
Also, the National Geographic Society (NGS) devoted the cover story of
their April 2013 edition to deExtinction, so you can find all kinds of
content about this subject on their website by clicking here, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/deextinction.
They have been involved to date with all of the meetings of scientists
around the world focusing on deExtinction research projects.
very readable and authoritative book published in 2016 reviews progress
made on both the Thylacine and Lazarus Projects as well as a range of
other current DeExtinction projects around the world: Bring back the
king: the new science of de-extinction’ by Helen Pilcher (https://www.amazon.com/Bring-Back-King-Science…/…/147291225X).
We haven’t yet published on our Lazarus Project because we were keeping
the research quiet until we discovered just how far we could get. The
Revive & Restore organisation (part of the Long Now Foundation) and
the National Geographic Society enticed many of us working on
deExtinction projects around the world to come out from our ‘closets’ so
to speak, to meet in October 2012 and mid March 2013, to talk with each
other about our goals, aspirations and challenges. This has led to new
multi-institutional collaborations that should accelerate progress on
projects currently underway. It certainly has with our Lazarus Project
via new links with Advanced Cell Technology in Boston. We are now
preparing papers for publication about progress to date on the Lazarus
Project and will continue to do so.
If you know anyone who can
help support this research, we’d be delighted to hear from them. The
Lazarus Project is only possible because of the Lazarus Fund that’s been
established in UNSW in Sydney. Dick Smith and Gary Johnston (CEO of
Jaycar) have been extremely helpful in providing core private funding
that’s enabled the Lazarus Project to achieve what we’ve managed so far.
This support does not in any way undermine support for any conventional
conservation project because it is ‘new money’. Of course there’s still
more to be done so further donations are going to be important if we’re
to have any hope of achieving the ultimate goal—the Gastric-brooding
Frog hopping glad to be back in the world again.
that if we’re successful in bringing back Gastric-brooding Frogs, it may
be necessary to splice in a gene for resistance to this fungus prior to
release of populations back into the wild. The gene demonstrating
resistance in frog populations around the world is currently the subject
of research (e.g., http://www.pnas.org/content/108/40/16705.short).
In the meantime it’s great to know that bright folk all around the
world are as excited as we are about the possibilities of bringing
extinct species back into the world, particularly those that are gone
because of something we humans did—or should have done but didn’t. If we
broke it, I strongly believe that we should try to fix it, if we can.
DeExtinction represents a new, potentially very important conservation
tool to optimise biodiversity in the world for all the reasons we know
this is important. It’s not an alternative or a threat to more
conventional conservation programs, and it could be very important in
terms of developing techniques to secure currently endangered species by
cross-species cloning (e.g., by using common species to build up the
numbers of their endangered relatives) as well as by bringing back
potentially keystone species whose absence threatens the stability of
the ecosystems of which they were once a part. Removal of wolves from
Yellowstone National Park, for example, resulted in severe downstream
environmental damage which was only reversed when wolves were returned.
We need every kind of effective arrow in the conservationist’s quiver
we can get to stop the current accelerating slippage into the world’s
6th mass extinction event. DeExtinction research has the potential to
produce one of the most important compatible arrows of this kind.
Prof. Michael Archer, PANGEA Research Center School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences University of New South Wales, Sydney AUSTRALIA 2052 http://www.pangea.unsw.edu.au/…/academic-res…/michael-archer; http://www.create.unsw.edu.au/team/marcher/; email@example.com
For anyone who is a big fan of legitimate tasmanian tiger reports, folklore, art and history etc of this extraordinary animal then you might like to join our new and growing group on facebook.
We created this as an escape from the mainland hoaxing and madness.
This new group has nothing to do with any mainland "sighting"..just Tasmania.
Check us out on ....
We have joined a great Thylacine group on facebook run by Wade Francis
The Thylacine Open Debate and Discussion Page
Dr Sleightholme and Cameron Campbell have responded to members questions..
We have our responses from Dr Sleightholme and Cameron Campbell.
Here is what we were sent.......
Both Cameron Campbell and I thank you for the invitation to participate
in the Q&A session for your Facebook group. First, a little about
Dr Stephen Sleightholme is author of several
scientific papers on the thylacine and Project Director to the
International Thylacine Specimen Database. Now into its 6th revision,
the ITSD is the culmination of a major cooperative effort between
museums and universities that hold specimens of the thylacine
(Thylacinus cynocephalus), to produce the first comprehensive study of
all that is known to physically remain of this unique species. In 2005,
the ITSD was presented with a prestigious Whitley Award, the first time
in the history of the awards that a citation had been presented for a
Cameron Campbell is Curator of the online Thylacine
Museum and author of several scientific papers on the thylacine. The
Thylacine Museum is a world class educational resource and the most
comprehensive source of information on the thylacine available anywhere
on the web, or for that matter, in any conventional museum display. Now
into its 18th year, the museum was an early pioneer in internet
education, being one of the first natural history websites. The latest
revision brings together expert opinion from many disciplines, and this,
combined with its many interactive features, ensures that the site
appeals to both the amateur naturalist and academic alike.
1/Warren Darragh- Does the study of wet specimens and the fossil record support Bergman rule?
As far as I am aware, no research has been undertaken to support or
reject Bergman’s rule with respect to the thylacine. Few thylacine
specimens (wet or dry) note the place of capture, most only recording
that they originated from Tasmania. Because of this omission in
provenance, we are unable to state that thylacines caught in the colder
highlands were larger than those caught in the warmer lowlands.
2/Branden Holmes- Is he going to publish the paper he was working on
with Heinz Moeller about thylacine dentition before Moeller passed away?
At present, no further work has been undertaken on this paper, as other
projects have taken precedence. That said, it is an area that Cameron
and I may return to at some future date.
3/Warren Darragh- How evident is sexual dimorphism in thylacine?
Sexual dimorphism is evident in the thylacine, with adult males being
around 14% larger than adult females. It should be noted that this
figure is based on a limited study of 28 animals [18 male and 10
female]. In this sample, the mean male total body length from the nose
to the tip of the tail was found to be 1.61m, and the mean female total
body length 1.38m.
4/Nicole Dyble- Wonder if males would also
have larger head and generally larger in size like other marsupial
carnivores....but can be difficult to determine gender in juveniles.
With respect to the thylacine’s head, there is a marked difference in
the skull size between the sexes, the male thylacine having a
proportionately larger skull with a longer face. The skull of the female
is distinguishable from that of the male by its smaller size, shorter
muzzle, less expanded zygomata, and with respect to its dentition,
smaller but proportionally larger teeth.
5/Branden Holmes- Any papers currently in the process of being written/accepted/published?
Cameron and I have three papers in production. A paper entitled “The
International Thylacine Specimen Database (6th Revision - Project
Summary & Final Report)” is currently in review for publication in
the Australian Zoologist later this year. A second paper entitled
“Stripe pattern variation in the coat of the Thylacine (Thylacinus
cynocephalus)” is submission ready, and a third paper describing two
previously unknown photographs of thylacines at the London Zoo is
currently being written.
6/Warren Darragh- In various commercial
productions on the thylacine there have been differing views on the
animals maximum jaw gape. What would be your estimate be?
The gape angle is often quoted as being in the order of 120 degrees.
This however, is a gross exaggeration, as opening the jaw more than 80
degrees would violate the integrity of the joint.
7/Louise Sherratt=Does he think they are still alive?
Stephen and I recently published a paper in the Australian Zoologist
entitled “A retrospective assessment of 20th century thylacine
populations”, in which we presented the first comprehensive study of the
thylacine’s post-1900 range, based on the retrospective analysis of
1167 geo-referenced capture, kill, and confirmed sighting reports, from
1900 to 1940. In the paper, we examined the probable causes of
population collapse, and discussed the possibility that the species
survived into the 1940s and beyond. We concluded that the thylacine
certainly survived beyond Benjamin’s (the last known captive thylacine)
demise in 1936, and that the species was extant in the 1940s and
probably beyond. As to its present-day survival, my answer would be
possibly, as one cannot easily dismiss the Naarding sighting in 1982, or
Col Bailey’s sighting in 1995, as misidentifications. Understandably,
the scientific community demands a body or proof photograph / video to
confirm the continued existence of the species, and to date, that has
not been forthcoming.
8/Christine Mats- And if yes, does he think it's more likely to be on the mainland or Tasmania-New guinea?
I would think it far more likely that the thylacine survives in
Tasmania than on the mainland. That said, one cannot discount all
mainland sightings. The 1973 Doyle footage from South Australia and the
1984 Kevin Cameron photographs from Western Australia are rather
interesting, and take some explaining if we dismiss them as being a
thylacine. Much of New Guinea’s rugged interior remains unexplored to
this day, and it is anybody’s guess as to whether the thylacine still
survives on the island. Certainly, the thylacine was present there
during the Pleistocene, as indicated by the discovery of fossil remains.
Prior to about 1930, there were an estimated 1 million people living
in New Guinea that were unknown to the outside world, so it is
interesting to speculate on what as yet undiscovered species (including
mammals) might possibly exist in the dense forests of the island’s
mountainous, difficult to traverse interior.
9/Warren Darragh- How might a citizen scientist get access to the international thylacine database?
The sixth revision of the International Thylacine Specimen Database
will be released online towards the end of 2017, and will be accessible
through an academic portal on the Thylacine Museum website.
10/Steve Crawford-As a carnivorous marsupial, how was its locomotion in
respect to its prey. Did they primarily use stamina or ambush as its
main hunting strategy?
The thylacine is a
pursuit predator and employs various hunting strategies dependent upon
the nature of the prey being hunted, and whether it is hunting alone, or
as a member of a larger family unit. This is discussed in detail on the
Thylacine Museum website, at the links given below: http://www.naturalworlds.org/…/bi…/behaviour/behaviour_5.htm http://www.naturalworlds.org/…/bi…/behaviour/behaviour_6.htm http://www.naturalworlds.org/…/bi…/behaviour/behaviour_7.htm
11/Mike Williams- How different was the locomotion of thylacines compared to canids..?
The thylacine is digitigrade, and like dogs and cats, walks on its
toes. A major difference between the feet of the thylacine and those of a
canid is that there is no webbing present between the thylacine’s toes.
Thylacines also have proportionately longer rear limbs as compared to
canids, giving them a rear-to-front sloping back, and a loping gait.
Please see the following Thylacine Museum pages for further details: http://www.naturalworlds.org/…/b…/behaviour/behaviour_10.htm http://www.naturalworlds.org/…/b…/behaviour/behaviour_11.htm
12-Warren Darragh- As a follow up on the gait question- how does
convergent evolution, combined with the need for predators to be
efficient in their movement help explain (or not) post extinction
sighting reports claiming thylacine have an awkward gait- when members
of the canine do not?
I would prefer not
to use the term “post extinction” in the context of sightings, as we do
not yet know with certainty if the extinction event has occurred. The
thylacine was / is perfectly adapted to the environment in which it
hunted. It is a stealth predator, and as such, is not designed for long
bursts of speed. Numerous historical reports mention that the thylacine
has an unusual gait, often described as loping. Anatomically, this
would not necessarily be inefficient in comparison to the gait of a
Just spotted this interview with Col Bailey about his latest book.
No one alive has spent as much time and effort as Col has to promote the existence of the animals and the stories of the bushmen dealing with the tigers