In the 1930s, the Tasmanian tiger went the way of the woolly mammoth and the dodo bird and was declared extinct. Now the remains of the last of its species have been discovered.
Officially known as the thylacine, the Tasmanian tiger was a carnivorous marsupial that inhabited the Australian island state of Tasmania, according to the Australian Museum. The creature sported dark stripes and a pouch for carrying its young, and it feasted on kangaroos and small rodents.
Its extinction likely came about as a result of pressures from hunters, dingos and dogs, the museum’s website states.
Up until recently, the last known thylacine was to have died in an Australian zoo in 1936, according to a report by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Tasmania.
Robert Paddle, a long-time Tasmanian tiger researcher, discovered that this animal was only the second to last of its species, according to the report.
The actual last Tasmanian tiger, an older female, was captured in a rural area by a trapper and subsequently sold to a zoo, the researchers said.
“The sale was not recorded or publicised by the zoo because, at the time, ground-based snaring was illegal and [the seller] could have been fined,” Paddle said.
When the animal died, it was transferred to the Tasmanian Museum and soon disappeared without any documentation of its arrival ever being recorded, according to the report.
Over the ensuing decades, the museum’s researchers and curators searched for its remains without success.
Recently, researchers came across an unpublished report by a taxidermist that made note of a work done on a Tasmanian tiger in 1936 or 1937.
Finally the remains turned up in an unassuming location: one of the museum’s cupboards, according to the BBC.
The body had been skinned and the skeleton dismembered, according to the report. The remains are now on display for museum visitors to see.
“It is bittersweet that the mystery surrounding the remains of the last thylacine has been solved, and that it has been discovered to be part of TMAG’s collection,” Mary Mulcahy, the museum’s director, stated in the report.
But people may not have to go to the museum to see a Tasmanian tiger for long. One company, Colossal Biosciences, stated their intention to bring back the thylacine, according to NPR.
The company plans to use gene editing technology to combine thylacine DNA with genetic material from the animal’s close relatives, according to the outlet. The resurrected creature could become a reality in the next few years.