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7 reasons why we should bring back the Tasmanian tiger

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Tasmanian-TigerDeath by gun and death by fungus. The thylacine, otherwise known as the Tasmanian tiger, and the gastric-brooding frog are two species that are now extinct, not by accident nor natural means, but by our own hands. Michael Archer: How we'll resurrect the gastric brooding frog, the Tasmanian tiger Michael Archer: How we'll resurrect the gastric brooding frog, the Tasmanian tiger In today’s talk, paleontologist Michael Archer explores the moral obligations we have in reviving a species whose demise we’ve caused. He believes this is a moral imperative.

In his research, Archer and his team are working to bring back the thylacine and gastric-brooding frog because each represents a unique family lost. “That’s a big chunk of the global genome gone,” he says.

The southern and northern gastric-brooding frogs are an easy sell as a de-extinction candidate. Why? They were the only frogs — and perhaps only species — that give birth through their mouths. (The mother swallows the eggs, transforming its stomach into a uterus. The eggs become tadpoles, the tadpoles become frogs, and with a hiccup, the frogs emerge from the mother’s mouth. ) But what about the thylacine? Here are seven facts that might convince you that we should bring back these unique and exciting creatures.

  1. The thylacine had dark stripes on its back like a cat, and a head and body that looked like a dog, but it was neither. The thylacine’s nickname, Tasmanian Tiger, came from its cat-like stripes. But it was classified as a marsupial, the class of mammals that includes kangaroos, wallabies, possums and koalas. The thylacine was the lone survivor of the once diverse family of carnivorous marsupials.
  2. The thylacine is the only other marsupial, apart from the water opossums, to have a pouch in both sexes. Like other female marsupials, female thylacines incubated their young in a pouch.  But male thylacines also had a pouch, which functioned to protect its reproductive organs.
  3. Tasmanian tigers are a great example of convergent evolution. This is when two separate groups of mammals in different locations evolve similar morphologies to adapt to similar habitats. Although a member of the marsupial family, the thylacine was an apex predator and hunted like a “wild dog” or a wolf.
  4. The thylacine was important to the culture of the indigenous people of Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. The first modern thylacines appeared about 4 million years ago. Thylacines were frequently featured in aboriginal rock art, showing that they were a food source and are thought to have been part of ritual practices.
  5. Thylacines were villainized, then hunted for bounty. When European settlers arrived in Tasmania, they brought with them flocks of sheep. When a great number of sheep were attacked and killed, settlers surmised it was the thylacines’ doing. In 1888, the Tasmanian Parliament put a price of £1on the Tasmanian tiger’s head. Although the government bounty scheme was terminated in 1909, at least 2,184 bounties were paid in total.
  6. There is a great thirst to see a living thylacine. Some people believe the thylacine is still out there. There are “sightings” of the Tasmanian tiger to this day. In 2005, Australian magazine The Bulletin offered a AU$1.25 million reward to anyone who can prove the extinct thylacine is well and alive.
  7. On September 7, 1936, the last thylacine, nicknamed “Benjamin,” died of neglect at the Hobart Zoo. The even bigger tragedy is that we had the technology to film and photograph this magnificent creature. See this Tasmanian tiger in action before his death.

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