The Thylacine

Until fairly recent times, a very unique large predatory animal called the thylacine (or Tasmanian wolf, Thylacinus cynocephalus) lived on the island of Tasmania, off the coast of Australia. Although it was more closely related to kangaroos, it had a remarkable similarity in appearance to the wolves found in other parts of the world, with which we are familiar. Here are pictures of some living specimens, which were taken before the species became extinct (these actually were captive specimens that were being kept at a zoo):

It was able to open its jaws to a wider gape than any other known mammal, as you can see here:

These animals were persecuted by farmers and shot on sight because they were a threat to their livestock, and at one time there even were government bounties placed on them. So sadly, the very last known individuals were wiped out by the end of the 1930s, although unconfirmed sightings continue to persist to this very day, which perhaps are only the product of wishful thinking... there has even been some talk recently by Australian scientists of attempting to clone some individuals from the DNA found in some preserved embryos of the species from museum collections, but unfortunately the project had to be abandoned for now because the DNA was too degraded to work with under present-day technology. It is tantalizing to speculate that at some future time, there will be enhanced technology that might allow that DNA to be reconstituted to a more usable state, and we might once more have a chance to stare down a living, breathing example of this weird but magnificent creature.

In case you are wondering how it would work in this case if a cloning procedure is ever actually carried out, it would probably have to involve the use of a female Tasmanian devil, the thylacine's presumed closest living relative and another ferocious predator which is also confined to Tasmania. (The devil is the second largest of Australia's marsupial carnivores, after the thylacine.) The refined thylacine DNA would be implanted into the ova of the female devil, which would then become a surrogate mother. However, researchers would then have to worry that the thylacine pups would think that they are baby Tasmanian devils!

Here are a few pictures of the Tasmanian devil, itself a formidable, but rare and endangered, creature:

crotus crotus
51-55, M
May 18, 2012