Extinct Tasmanian Tiger subject of study

April 19, 2012 at 4:05 PM
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MELBOURNE, April 19 (UPI) -- The unique Tasmanian Tiger, also known as the thylacine, had limited genetic diversity prior to its 20th century extinction, Australian scientists say.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne analyzed the genetic health of the thylacine before it was exterminated by hunting.

The Tasmanian Tiger was hunted under a government bounty from 1888 to 1909, with the last known animal dying in captivity in 1936, a university release said Thursday.

The analysis showed the Tasmanian Tiger had the same or even less genetic diversity than its close relative, the Tasmanian Devil.

"Due to the similarly poor genetic diversity of the animals, this new data suggests that the genetic health of the Tasmanian Tiger and Devil may have been affected by the geographic isolation of Tasmania from mainland Australia approximately 10,000 to 13,000 years ago," researcher Brandon Menzies said.

Scientists made the analysis using mitochondrial DNA extracted from 14 museum specimens that were 102 to 159 years old.

"This new study confirms the relatively low genetic diversity in the Tasmanian Tiger which sadly was hunted to extinction," study co-author Marilyn Renfree said.

"We cannot bring the Tiger back to life, but at least we can continue to learn as much as possible about these iconic marsupial carnivores."

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