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Friday, January 16, 2009

A group of international researchers working at Pennsylvania University, believe it will be possible to identify all of the genes that make up the tiger – or thylacine-genome.

The team, working with colleagues in Europe, extracted genetic material taken from the hair of male and female thylacines after they died.

They are the same researchers who sequenced the woolly mammoth's genome late last year. Their work, published in the journal Genome Research, marks the first successful sequencing of genes from the carnivorous marsupial.

Although scientists have managed to extract some thylacine DNA before, technical constraints meant no one was able to extract as much as the international team.

Researcher Stephan Schuster said the work raised the possibility that one day the thylacine, a large tiger-striped animal which roamed the Australian island of Tasmania before its demise, could be brought back to life.

"It will revive discussion on the possible resurrection of the animal," he said.

Australian conservationists have welcomed the news of the breakthrough.

Geneticist Karen Firestone, who extracted DNA from the skin and bones of a thylacine in 2003, said the research was "fantastic".

"I'm just sorry it wasn't done in Australia," she told the Australian newspaper.

Tasmanian Tigers were hunted to the brink of extinction in Tasmania by white settlers.

The last surviving thylacine died in captivity in Hobart Zoo in 1936. Known as Benjamin, he is believed to have died from neglect after he was locked out of his sleeping quarters and exposed to freezing temperatures.


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