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Biotech

Bits of Tassie Tiger Brought Back from Extinction 197

Posted by timothy
from the not-much-to-look-at-yet dept.
zerobeat writes "Scientists from Melbourne, Australia have managed to resurrect the gene responsible for the development of cartilage and bone from the now extinct Tasmanian Tiger. The gene was expressed in a mouse embryo so the full reincarnation of a full Tassie Tiger is a long way off. You can listen to an MP3 of ABC Australia's Robyn Williams discussing the results with the lead scientists. This is the first time DNA from an extinct species has been made to live again in a live animal."
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Bits of Tassie Tiger Brought Back from Extinction

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  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @09:11AM (#23474982) Homepage
    In Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park [amazon.com] , the dinosaur DNA extracted from the stomachs of mosquitos trapped in amber is incomplete as well, but by combining it with the DNA of modern reptiles, a decent simalcrum of a dinosaur could be had. Does this Tasmanian tiger development vindicate (at least the less out there elements of) Crichton's plot?
    • by dreamchaser (49529) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @09:15AM (#23475038) Homepage Journal
      Probably not, but it makes for interesting thought experiments. I would not use reptiles though. Birds are probably far closer genetically to dinosaurs than any living reptiles are today. Some might even say that dinosaurs didn't really die off; they evolved into birds and lived on in that manner.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by someone1234 (830754)
      Well, the tiger DNA is only 70 years old. The Dino DNA is 70 million years old.
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @09:16AM (#23475058) Homepage Journal

      Does this Tasmanian tiger development vindicate (at least the less out there elements of) Crichton's plot?
      In a word: No. Grabbing one gene from an extinct species is very different than grabbing most of the entire genome is. Plus, the Tasmanian Tiger is far more-recently-extinct than dinosaurs, so the DNA is, without a doubt, much, much newer. (DNA degrades significantly over time.)
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        It should be noted as well, that when it was apparent the Tasmanian Tiger would become extinct, they started to preserve the remains in alcohol rather than formaldehyde. Alcohol does not damage DNA the way formaldehyde does.
        • by Skippy_kangaroo (850507) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:25PM (#23482770)
          I think you are indulging in a bit of creative reinterpretation of history:

          1933 Last wild Thylacine captured
          1936 Last Thylacine in captivity dies
          1936 Thylacine added to list of protected wildlife
          1953 DNA discovered

          Given that DNA and its chemical structure was unknown in the 1930s - when it really mattered - they could not have been choosing to use alcohol because it did not degrade DNA. Interesting story but no banana.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by abhitux (1279018)
      this time the tigers would be killed by Global Warming
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wattrlz (1162603)
      In the movie they used amphibians.
    • "Bits" of Tassie? Is that the technical term for incomplete DNA strands?

      Kinda reminds me of referring to the Internet backbone as "pipes."

    • by 1u3hr (530656)
      Does this Tasmanian tiger development vindicate (at least the less out there elements of) Crichton's plot?

      No. The Tasmanian Tiger became extinct in the 1930s. We have samples taken from freshly dead corpses and preserved in laboratories. Not fossilised for 65 million years.>P? Anyway, Crichton's "plot" was" wild animals escaper, kill people, and finally some survivors escape. The plot could have been exactly the same with tigers, vampire bats, anacondas, or for thta matter, robots (like Westworld, an e

  • Eeek! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @09:12AM (#23474994) Homepage Journal
    I for one do NOT welcome our new tasmanian mouse overlords.

    On a more serious note, it would be fascinating if they could bring back a few recently extinct species. DNA degrades quite a bit over time though, so any hopes of a real life 'Jurassic Park' are probably going to remain science fiction forever.
    • Re:Eeek! (Score:5, Funny)

      by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @09:17AM (#23475078)

      our new tasmanian mouse overlords.
      So, would that be the mouse that roared?
    • Re:Eeek! (Score:4, Informative)

      by arivanov (12034) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @09:58AM (#23475744) Homepage
      In that case why don't they bloody bring something useful like the Steller Cow. While trying to bring back the some of the native Australian species is a great achievement none of them would have the direct economic impact of having a sustainable see grazer capable of living in cold water.
      • by spun (1352)

        In that case why don't they bloody bring something useful like the Steller Cow.
        Cows that can graze on the sun? That IS useful! I suppose they must be nocturnal, you know, so they don't get burnt up.

      • Did anyone ever stick any parts of steller sea cow in a jar and preserve it?
    • I'm sure we'll eventually be able to bring some extinct animals back to life and/or recreate something close to dinosaurs.

      First off, DNA degrades, but the most successful DNA sequencing technique (Craig Venter's) does not rely on having intact DNA - just enough snippets that can be reassembled.

      Secondly, while it'd be nice to recreate a DNA-authentic T-Rex/whatever, I'm sure that most people would be plenty satisified to go to a monster park full of any flesh and blood beasts that looked close enough. Scient
    • Just out of curiosity, even though DNA degrades significantly over time, do the same sequences in the DNA degrade at the same rate? Suppose you were able to recover DNA from a number different individuals from the same species. Would it be possible to compare the DNA from multiple sources and try to "fill in the blanks" so to speak? Or would there be so much missing information that even with hundreds of samples, there's no way to complete the sequence?

      Go easy on me if this is a stupid quest
      • The short answer to your question is yes. It wouldn't even have to be multiple sources because any biological tissue is made up of uncountable numbers of cells, each with their own copy of the genome. So really if you extract DNA from a big enough sample and can sequence enough small enough pieces of DNA, the problem becomes simple a computational one of lining them all up into chromosomes based on overlap. With current technology we're on the edge of being able to sequence something like a Nanderthal. For
    • by geekoid (135745)
      There have been some successful, albeit small, DNA sequencing from Dinosaurs.
      I suspect it will be possible to bring some back.
      When they do I hope they are bright pink with neon spots.
      You know, just to screw with everybody.

  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @09:14AM (#23475022) Homepage
    I know this!
  • until some renegade security geek disables the electric fence, and T-Rex's start eating attorneys everywhere...

    oh wait...let 'em run free then

  • I'm sure a lot of environmentalists might be appalled, but, why are we trying to bring back or defend large predator species? Tigers eat people or eat things that people could eat, and they are faster and stronger than any naked man. Same can be said for lions, cheetahs, bears, gorillas, and more. We don't need -any- of these animals to be running around in any place except for on TV. It's just too dangerous! :-)
    • by Brown (36659)

      I guess you're at least partially jesting, but just in case anyone's interested:

      Large predators (usually apex predators [wikipedia.org]) play an important role in regulating ecosystems, by controlling the number of herbivores and/or smaller predators. As well as weeding out sick/weak individuals (whether this is a good thing or not depends on point of view), they act as feedback control. For example, an increase in (e.g.) gazelles results in an increase in (e.g.) lions, which in turn stops the increase in gazelles. This

    • by PPH (736903)
      Because its time for a little bit of thinning of the heard.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I will take your advice... and never fight any Tasmanian Tigers while naked.
    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      There's an argument to be made for (re-)introducing predators to limit the numbers of destructive prey species. Scotland is currently considering re-introducing wolves to keep deer numbers down, for example. I wouldn't say that it's a strong argument, since the wolves will likely prefer something slower and dumber, like sheep or parking wardens, but it can be advanced.
  • I'm too lazy to google or read the article, but have they ever cloned a EXTANT marsupial? Marsupial have a very weird development scheme compared to placental mammals, which have been cloned successfully.
  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @09:44AM (#23475486) Homepage Journal
    With all the oddball names the folks at Ubuntu use, my first thought was they had named their next release and had kept in code that was on the chopping block.

    Imagine my surprise. . .
    • by vorlich (972710)
      Surely the next version is "Impudent Iguana", "Indolent Ibis" or "Itinerant Impala".
      Quick, someone squat those domains.
    • by trcooper (18794) *
      I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought this had to do with an upcoming Ubuntu release. They should pencil it in for about 6 years from now.
  • by penguin_dance (536599) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @09:49AM (#23475574)
    The Thylacine ate my baby!
  • Good thing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Raere (735369)
    I'm glad they're trying to bring back the 'Tassie'; it went extinct because of excessive hunting by humans. I believe that it's our responsibility to bring something back if we kill it off due to negligence. We had no hand in killing the dinosaurs however, so that's a different story. But we should try to right our wrongs in nature.
  • Typo.....? (Score:3, Funny)

    by IHC Navistar (967161) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @09:58AM (#23475750)
    "Robyn Williams discussing the results with the lead scientists".

    -Please, oh please, let that be a misspelling of the Robin Williams I know.
    • by peipas (809350)
      I wonder what method they used to eliminate all that hair prior to his sex change.
    • by bh_doc (930270)
      For the record, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robyn_Williams [wikipedia.org] is a well respected science journalist in Australia. No, he's not the other guy.
      • Don't get me wrong, by no means am I putting down the Robyn Williams mentioned in the article. I'd never do that.

        I just had a funny mental image of the hyperactive comedian Robin Williams interviewing a scientist about this sort of thing. If you've ever seen his routines, you'd know what I mean.....
  • on the basis of available research, I should imagine a couple of fair-haired celebrities are more likely to make a reappearance long before the Tasmanian Tiger does. After all it worked for Ripley... eventually.
  • ...is as irresponsible as causing living ones to go extinct, and not because of Hollywood-style disasters. We have enough problems with foreign species overwhelming the native environment. Imagine some giant squid being resurrected and proceeding to eat all the modern fish in the ocean. Or a tasmanian tiger accidentally interbreeding with a normal one and the aggressive, man-eating hybrid becoming the dominant species. Besides, who is to say that the piece of DNA integrated into a mouse is not a dangerous r
    • Ignorance can be so funny. "Or a tasmanian tiger accidentally interbreeding with a normal one and the aggressive, man-eating hybrid becoming the dominant species" is about as likely as you crossbreeding with a platypus. Oh, the horrific poison-clawed egg-laying human hybrid!
    • by unfunk (804468)

      Or a tasmanian tiger accidentally interbreeding with a normal one
      That would be quite a feat, considering that the creature's name is entirely a colloquialism (the real name is Thylacine [wikipedia.org])... because it's not even a species of cat, let alone tiger...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rantingkitten (938138)
      This isn't some species from the ancient past that went extinct through the normal course of things. This is an animal that was doing just fine until humans showed up and hunted them into near-extinction over a period of about a thousand years.

      By the 30s there weren't many left, and only in Tasmania, and we finished them off by placing bounties on them to keep them from attacking sheep. Not to mention the ever-growing destruction of habitat by our farming efforts, competition with the dogs we brought with
  • The entry on Wikipedia says that sightings, while rare, are still being reported. Would it not require INFINITELY less resources to simply go catch one and get genes from it???

    I'm perplexed as to why this got the green light. Can anyone clue me in?
    • Only nuts say they've seen one. I think last reported 'sighting' was c. 1970s. Various expeditions have turned up nothing.

      Southwest Tasmania though is home to one of the largest protected wilderness sites on Earth and it's possible that a small population has survived. Highly doubtful though.

      If we brought some back there would theoretically be an ecosystem for them. However that ecosystem has evolved 80 years without them. Reintroduction could be very harmful.

      A nice oddity in a large zoo enclosure

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by icegreentea (974342)
      Because they've been looking for the Tassie for the last 70 years. That hasn't quite panned out. Think about it. This isn't the entirety of the world's biological research focused at one thing. It's a bunch of scientists with some backing who are doing it. And it might have incredible payoffs (better ways to extract old/degraded DNA, figure out how to clone marsupials, blah blah). To do a search would require hundreds, if not thousands of workers, combing through the entire island on foot from end to end, l
  • Scientists genetically engineer bad-ass mouse.

  • to use a mouse embryo to clone even part of a cat gene, you insensitive clods!
  • Well, that's no ordinary mouse.

    Ohh.

    That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!

    You tit! I soiled my armor I was so scared!

    Look, that mouse has got a vicious streak a mile wide! It's a killer!

    • Don't expected to get modded up for such a vague reference. Even though the movie was quite popular, few people ever really watched it that far. Unfortunately, I actually saw the ending once, and it pretty much ruined the whole thing!

  • I want a quagga (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @05:19PM (#23483644) Journal
    When they get around to recreating recently extinct species I think a particularly good candidate is the Quagga. (And I'd love to have some breeding stock for it.)

    One thing that the wikipedia article doesn't mention: Zebras are essentially a striped donkey, but they (and their hybrids) are generally vicious and impossible to break and train. The Quagga was an exception: It domesticated very nicely.

    Others that would be fun to bring back:
      - Dodo.
      - Passenger Pigeon. (If only for the humor of having the eastern states paved in pigeon droppings twice a year as the sky-obscuring migration goes through.)
    Both were apparently very tasty.

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