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Thylacines and thylacoleos - pre 1936 and genetic ethics
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Quake42Offline
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PostPosted: 04-10-2008 13:16    Post subject: Reply with quote

It seems I got the story a little mixed up.

My friend's mother saw two mystery animals in rural Victoria. One, indeed, matches the description of a thylacine. However, she does not have a photo of this creature, but of the other, which she described as fox-like, but moving like a deer.

Having seen the photo I think it is probably just an especially large fox. I can't explain the movement but perhaps it was injured. A little disappointing, but hey ho. I still think the thylacine is out there...
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PostPosted: 13-01-2009 16:09    Post subject: Reply with quote

Latest on the return attempts.

Quote:
Hair Of Tasmanian Tiger Yields Genes Of Extinct Species
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090112201131.htm

This is a photograph of two thylacinus in the Washington D.C. National Zoo, c. 1906. (Credit: Photograph by E.J. Keller, from the Smithsonian Institution archives (via Wikipedia))

ScienceDaily (Jan. 13, 2009) — All the genes that the exotic Tasmanian Tiger inherited only from its mother will be revealed by an international team of scientists in a research paper to be published on 13 January 2009 in the online edition of Genome Research. The research marks the first successful sequencing of genes from this carnivorous marsupial, which looked like a large tiger-striped dog and became extinct in 1936.

The research also opens the door to the widespread, nondestructive use of museum specimens to learn why mammals become extinct and how extinctions might be prevented.

"Our goal is to learn how to prevent endangered species from going extinct," said Webb Miller, a Penn State professor of biology and of computer science and engineering and a member of the research team that includes scientists from the United States, Sweden, Spain, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Germany. "I want to learn as much as I can about why large mammals become extinct because all my friends are large mammals," Miller said. "However, I am expecting that publication of this paper also will reinvigorate discussions about possibly bringing the extinct Tasmanian Tiger back to life."

The team's research relies on new gene-sequencing technology and computational methods developed by Miller and Stephan C. Schuster, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State. The new methods involve extracting DNA from the hair of extinct specimens, not from bone, which has been used in previous studies of extinct species. The team's work reveals that hair is a powerful time capsule for preserving DNA over long periods and under a wide range of conditions. "I think of hair as a shrine for ancient DNA," Schuster said. "It is sealed so well that not even air or water are able to penetrate the DNA stored inside. Most importantly, bacteria cannot reach the DNA as long as the structure of the hair remains sound."

"Tasmanian Tiger" is a common name of the extinct thylacine species (Thylacinus cynocephalus), which is more closely related to kangaroos and koalas than to dogs or tigers. The last known specimen died in a Tasmanian zoo in 1936. Thylacines have played a central role in discussions about the possibility of bringing extinct species back to life, but despite the availability of many bones and other remains, previous attempts to read thylacine DNA had been unsuccessful.

Miller, Schuster, and their colleagues were the first to report the genome-wide sequence of an extinct animal, the woolly mammoth, in November 2008. They next collaborated with Anders Goetherstroem, at Uppsala University in Sweden, to target the Tasmanian Tiger because, like the mammoth, it was a coveted goal of ancient-DNA researchers, who considered its sequencing unfeasable due to the inadequate quality of the DNA available from specimens. "The speculation was that the only reason we were able to extract DNA from mammoth hair is that the mammoths had remained frozen in the Arctic permafrost, but our success with the Tasmanian Tiger shows that hair can protect DNA for long periods under a variety of environmental conditions," Schuster said.

In their new paper in Genome Research, Miller, Schuster, and their colleagues describe the completion of the mitochondrial genome sequences of two Tasmanian Tigers, one at the Smithsonian Museum and the other at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. One specimen was prepared by a taxidermist as a skin and the other one was submerged in ethanol. The team extracted DNA from small amounts of the hair of both specimens, then used their methods to sequence independent copies of each region of the DNA molecule from many different fragments of DNA in the hairs. The scientists assured the high fidelity of their results by independently determining each position in the sequences an average of 50 times.

The scientists sequenced all the DNA in the hair samples from the two Tasmanian Tigers, including mitochondrial DNA, which is the focus of the Genome Research paper, and nuclear DNA, which the team plans to analyze in future work. "This study, in which we sequenced the complete mitochondrial genome of the thylacine species, also shows that it is feasible to sequence its complete nuclear genome," Schuster said.

The new gene sequences permitted the team to accurately determine how the Tasmanian Tiger is related to other marsupials. They compared the sequences to a mitochondrial genome sequence they determined from a living reference species, a marsupial called a numbat. "The two thylacine sequences were extremely similar to each other, with only 5 differences in 15,492 nucleotides," Miller reports. The researchers say this similarity suggests that, as the species neared extinction, there was too little genetic diversity to resist bacterial and other environmental stresses. "Low genetic diversity is appearing as a common theme in the extinct species being studied by our team," Schuster said.

The research also revealed that two previous sequences in public databases, both labeled as Tasmanian Tiger mitochondrial genes, were incorrect. "Our Smithsonian specimen was the male offspring of the female animal named as the source of the earlier data, so the mitochondrial sequences, which are inherited only from the mother, should have been identical, but our analyses showed they are over 10 percent different," Schuster said.

The new study shows that the methods pioneered at Penn State are potentially useful for a new discipline involving the genome analysis of samples originating from museum archives, which Schuster calls "Museomics." "The collections dating back several hundred years and now housed in the world's museums of natural history are the treasure troves of science," Schuster said. "We hope to add DNA-sequence data to the taxonomic data provided by many of the important specimens that define the species we know today."

The team's experience in this study indicates that museum directors can be enthusiastic collaborators with genome scientists because the analysis of a specimen's hair does not damage the appearance of the museum's collections. "Whatever hairs fall off a specimen provide enough material for sequencing the animal's DNA," Schuster said. In contrast, sampling bone involves drilling holes in the museum's collection, which curators are understandably reluctant to permit. "The advantages of obtaining DNA from hair makes Museomics possible on a wide scale," Schuster said.

Miller and Schuster said their future research plans include studies of the world's only remaining large marsupial carnivore, the Tasmanian Devil. "Our preliminary genetic research with the Tasmanian Devil indicates that its genome may have alarmingly less genetic diversity than did the woolly mammoth and the Tasmanian Tiger when they became extinct, so we now have directed a portion of our research program to studying the Tasmanian Devil in the hope of preventing this magnificent mammalian species from becoming extinct."

This research received financial support from Penn State University, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the Ramon Areces Foundation in Spain.
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Quake42Offline
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PostPosted: 12-10-2009 09:43    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I've just returned from Tasmania. Beautiful place and extremely remote. It's easy to believe that the thylacine still survives there. I'd love to be able to say that I spotted one, but of course I didn't - although my friend did see a dead "fox" by the side of the road! I'm sure it was a fox, although they're not supposed to have reached that part of Tassie yet, but I wish we'd stopped the car to check!

One thing that struck me as a bit weird was the official insistence that the Tasmanian devil was now very rare in the wild and may follow the Tiger into extinction. Within 100km of Hobart we saw a devil feasting on roadkill and at least two more that had sadly become roadkill themselves.

The logging industry is still depressingly powerful in Tassie and it would certainly suit them to play down the existence of iconic creatures like the Tiger and the devil, as the presence of such animals fuels demands for the ancient forests to be protected.

I smell a conspiracy...
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PostPosted: 12-10-2009 10:15    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quake42 wrote:
The logging industry is still depressingly powerful in Tassie and it would certainly suit them to play down the existence of iconic creatures like the Tiger and the devil, as the presence of such animals fuels demands for the ancient forests to be protected.

I smell a conspiracy...

Precisely the same accusation has been levelled at logging companies in the US Pacific NW with regard to Bigfoot, that they actively dissuade employees from reporting sightings or evidence, lest they suddenly find their prospective tons of lumber is an area of Special Scientific Interest, and thus verboten.

Alternatively, it has been said that proof of the existence of both Bigfeet and Thylacines is in the hands of various academic institutions and Wildlife Services, but they choose to keep both evidence and precise habitat quiet in order to protect the highly endangered species. Which would be nice to believe.
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PostPosted: 03-11-2009 11:42    Post subject: Reply with quote

I knew the late Peter Chapel of the Australian Rare Fanuna group. He was a great bushman and zoologist. He had seen thylacines on the mainland on three seperate occations. Professor Henry Nix's computer program BIOCLIM predicted thylacines would be found in exactly the same areas of Tasmania the sightings were coming from. Zoologist Hans Narrding and park ranger Charlie Beasly have both seen them. I think thylacines not only exist but are less rare than some officaly existing creatures like Javan and Sumatran rhinos.
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Quake42Offline
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PostPosted: 03-11-2009 17:52    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I knew the late Peter Chapel of the Australian Rare Fanuna group. He was a great bushman and zoologist. He had seen thylacines on the mainland on three seperate occations. Professor Henry Nix's computer program BIOCLIM predicted thylacines would be found in exactly the same areas of Tasmania the sightings were coming from.


Interesting stuff - any more info?
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PostPosted: 03-11-2009 22:36    Post subject: Reply with quote

The trouble with the logging company theory is that Thylacines always seemed to be more populous in the open country of north-eastern Tasmania, which is why the sheep farmers that took over that area saw them as a threat. Evidence suggests there were never large numbers in the denser forests of the south-west.
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Zilch5Offline
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PostPosted: 05-11-2009 06:00    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does anyone have a link to the map with the sightings?

I will be in Tassie in February - who knows, I just might get lucky and find one! Laughing
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PostPosted: 05-11-2009 23:06    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you can get hold of a copy of this book:

Out of the Shadows

It has an excellent overview of Thylacines (Tasmania and the mainland), Thylacoleos, ABC's, Yowies and Bunyips. Includes maps of sighting distributions.
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PostPosted: 05-11-2009 23:29    Post subject: Reply with quote

DougalLongfoot wrote:
The trouble with the logging company theory is that Thylacines always seemed to be more populous in the open country of north-eastern Tasmania, which is why the sheep farmers that took over that area saw them as a threat. Evidence suggests there were never large numbers in the denser forests of the south-west.


But surely, if there are any thylacines left, isn't the forest the best place to find them (no flocks of sheep in the forest to encourage tassi hunters).
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PostPosted: 05-11-2009 23:36    Post subject: Reply with quote

DougalLongfoot wrote:
If you can get hold of a copy of this book:

Out of the Shadows

It has an excellent overview of Thylacines (Tasmania and the mainland), Thylacoleos, ABC's, Yowies and Bunyips. Includes maps of sighting distributions.


Thanks!
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PostPosted: 15-11-2009 01:36    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hans Narrding a zoologist saw one i the early 1980s from a distance of only 20 feet. Park Ranger Charli Beaslie watch one or about 5 nins from up a tree in the early 1990s
BIOCLIM was a progame that helpd scientists track down animals in field work. It corrilated all the know animal's preferences with information on a particular area then predicted were, within the are, the species in question was most likley to be found. Professor Nix tried this with the thylacine and got a 98% match with the computor programs predictions and recorded sightings!
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PostPosted: 29-12-2009 19:25    Post subject: Reply with quote

Three questions, when if ever were they declared extinct, not 1936, that year only saw Benjamin, the last in captive animal's death, also there was an official expedition after that by a Trooper Fleming (think that was his name anyway) which found fresh evidence, but yielded no sightings.

Secondly did anyone see the photos once shown on TV cant remember where, but it might have been on that Chris Packham programme, showing underside close ups of Thylacine paws, supposedly from a recently accidently shot animal.
If so does anyone know what became of it all. I think the presenter asked why would they photograph the paws, thereby showing his glittering knowledge of the subject.

Thirdly who is the main authority now that Eric Guiler has died.
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PostPosted: 29-12-2009 23:00    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
when if ever were they declared extinct, not 1936


Thylacines were declared "presumed extinct" in 1986, 50 years after the death of the last confirmed specimen.
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PostPosted: 23-01-2013 17:09    Post subject: Reply with quote

Old contemporary description from a magazine for future Empire builders and their future wives.


A member of the Marsupialia family which does not exist out of the small island of Tasmania is the zebra-wolf, the most savage and destructive of all the marsupials. This ferocious beast is about the size of the largest kind of sheep-dog. Its short fur is of a yellowish-brown color, and its back and sides are handsomely marked with black stripes. It is a fleet runner, propelling itself with its hind-legs, which are jointed like those of a kangaroo, although it goes on all fours. Its gait is a succession of quick springs—a peculiarity of nearly all the animals of Tasmania.

The zebra-wolf is very troublesome to the sheep-raising farmers, and constant watch is required to prevent its depredations on the flocks and herds. It inhabits caverns and rocks in the deep and almost impenetrable glens in the neighborhood of the high mountain ranges, from whence it sallies forth at night to scour the great grassy plains in search of food. It preys on the brush kangaroo, the great emu, and any small birds or beasts it can capture.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/28395/28395-h/28395-h.htm
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