Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Thylacine's Extinction - When or If?

The modern world's only known large marsupial predator, the thylacine (or Tasmanian tiger), was declared extinct in 1986. That was 50 years after the last officially confirmed specimen died in a zoo.
Some searchers kept looking for the animal, notably Dr. Eric Guiler, who found some scat in the late 1950s and early 1960s that he thought belonged to a tiger. Those samples, which could not be positively identified with the techniques then in use, will now get a proper DNA analysis by
zoologist Jeremy Austin and his colleagues at the Australian Center for Ancient DNA. (The late Dr. Guiler, for the record, thought Thylacinus cynocephalus had lived 50-60 years past its official demise, but today is truly extinct.) Finding thylacine DNA in the scats won't prove the animal is still alive, but will prove it lasted later than we thought and may vindicate at least some of the post-1936 witnesses who insisted they had seen the species in the wild.

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