Story at a glance
- Colossal Biosciences, a Texas-based startup that calls itself a “de-extinction company,” plans on trying to bring back the thylacine.
- The thylacine, also called the Tasmanian tiger, was a dog-sized carnivorous marsupial that once lived on the Australian mainland and Tasmania.
- The species died out during the early 20th century due to habitat destruction and excessive hunting. Farmers used to routinely kill the animal to prevent it from eating livestock like sheep.
A startup is trying to bring back the thylacine, once the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial that went extinct in the 1930s.
The species was roughly the size of a dog and commonly called the Tasmanian tiger due to the animal’s distinctive stripes on its back.
Colossal Biosciences, a so-called de-extinction company, is trying to create a new version of the long-lost animal once native to the Australian mainland and islands of Tasmania and New Guinea.
Experts believe that there were up to 5,000 thylacines on Tasmania at the time of European colonization, but the animal quickly died out during the early 20th century due to a combination of over hunting and habitat destruction, according to the National Museum of Australia.
The last known thylacine, named Benjamin, died in 1936 from exposure at the Beaumaris Zoo in the southeastern city of Hobart, just two months after the species was granted protected status.
This is not the first extinct animal the Dallas-based company is trying to essentially bring back from the dead. Last year, Colossal Biosciences announced that it was trying to resurrect the woolly mammoth, or rather a cold-resistant elephant with “all the core biological traits” of the species, according to the company’s websites.
“It will walk like a Woolly Mammoth, look like one, sound like one, but most importantly it will be able to inhabit the same ecosystem previously abandoned by the Mammoth’s extinction,” the company says.
The company has successfully been able to sequence the thylacine genome this year but still has a long way to go before birthing a fully formed Tasmanian tiger.
Work to bring back the species is being done in partnership with the University of Melbourne, which received a $5 million philanthropic gift to open a thylacine restoration lab.
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