According to an article on Discovery.com, Colossal Biosciences is working on the de-extinction of the Tasmanian tiger (thylacine), a marsupial species extinct since 1936 due to human hunting. The project aims to restore the thylacine by using genetic engineering techniques, specifically by editing the DNA of the closest living relative, the fat-tailed dunnart. This engineered dunnart cell will be transformed into a living thylacine using stem cell and reproductive methods.
The initiative not only seeks to bring back the Tasmanian tiger but also to address the ecological imbalance created by its extinction, including helping restore the broader Australian ecosystems. The technology developed for this project has applications in marsupial conservation efforts, offering new tools for protecting vulnerable species.
Colossal’s work on de-extinction also includes a project to restore the woolly mammoth to the Arctic Tundra. The timeline for the return of the Tasmanian tiger is not announced yet, but due to the shorter gestation period of marsupials compared to elephants, it could potentially happen relatively sooner.
The project’s proponents emphasize that the benefits of restoring the thylacine outweigh potential risks, as it can help prevent further ecosystem damage and biodiversity loss caused by the absence of apex predators like the Tasmanian tiger. The technology could be applied in exceptional circumstances where cornerstone species have been lost.