Sequencing Tasmanian Tiger's DNA may shed light on why mammals become extinct

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Washington, Jan 13 (ANI): In a new research, an international team of scientists has for the first time successfully sequenced the genes of the extinct Tasmanian Tiger, which would shed light on why mammals become extinct and how extinctions might be prevented.

The research marks the first successful sequencing of genes from this carnivorous marsupial, which looked like a large tiger-striped dog and became extinct in 1936.

All the genes that the exotic Tasmanian Tiger inherited only from its mother will be revealed by an international team of scientists in a research paper.

"Our goal is to learn how to prevent endangered species from going extinct," said Webb Miller, a Penn State professor of biology and of computer science and engineering and a member of the research team that includes scientists from the United States, Sweden, Spain, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

"I want to learn as much as I can about why large mammals become extinct because all my friends are large mammals," he added.

"However, I am expecting that publication of this paper also will reinvigorate discussions about possibly bringing the extinct Tasmanian Tiger back to life," Miller hoped.

The team's research relies on new gene-sequencing technology and computational methods developed by Miller and Stephan C. Schuster, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State.

The new methods involve extracting DNA from the hair of extinct specimens, not from bone, which has been used in previous studies of extinct species.

In their new research paper, Miller, Schuster, and their colleagues describe the completion of the mitochondrial genome sequences of two Tasmanian Tigers, one at the Smithsonian Museum and the other at the Swedish Museum of Natural History.

One specimen was prepared by a taxidermist as a skin and the other one was submerged in ethanol.

The team extracted DNA from small amounts of the hair of both specimens, then used their methods to sequence independent copies of each region of the DNA molecule from many different fragments of DNA in the hairs.

The team's work reveals that hair is a powerful time capsule for preserving DNA over long periods and under a wide range of conditions.

"I think of hair as a shrine for ancient DNA," Schuster said. "It is sealed so well that not even air or water are able to penetrate the DNA stored inside. Most importantly, bacteria cannot reach the DNA as long as the structure of the hair remains sound," he added. (ANI)

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