Science

Experts explore how Tasmanian Tigers become predators

By Jose Paolo Calcetas , Jan 19, 2017 11:59 AM EST

Scientists may have finally discovered how one of Australia's most fabled species, the Tasmanian Tiger, became one of the fiercest predators on earth. Scientists were able to study the brain of a two extinct Tasmanian Tigers, also known as thylacines, using an Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan. The brain samples of these thylacines are estimated to be more than 100 years old. The MRI Scan successfully showed samples' gray matter, or brain architecture, and the white matter, the movement of molecules and connective pathways of a brain.

The research's co-author, Prof. Ken Ashwell, said that no studies have been done about the thylacine brain prior to their research. He further added that the study's findings inspired and opened the possibility of exploring the brains of other endangered and extinct species. It will also help scientists understand the behavior and evolution of animals.

This is the first time a study was made to understand the predatory behavior of the Tasmanian Tiger. Based on the said research, the thylacine has a bigger brain compared to other Australian carnivores, explaining why it is predatory in nature. The brain sample of the thylacine has been mapped through brain architecture. This technology can also be used to study other extinct animals. The thylacine's brain was found to have a larger capacity with more cortex, which allows it to decide and plan on how to catch its prey.

An article published on Phys.org  said that there are only four specimens of brains left of the Tasmanian Tiger. One of the samples was obtained by the Smithsonian Institution in 1905 from a male Tasmanian tiger who died at the National Zoological Park. Another one was lent by an Australian Museum in Sydney, which was derived from an animal who perished during the 1930's. Meanwhile, the two thylacine brains used in the study also came from the Smithsonian Institution and the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, an initiative of the Australian government towards animal and environmental protection.

According to iTech Post, there are some scientists who are consider cloning extinct animals through a process called re-extinction. One of its advocates is George Church, a Harvard geneticist who has developing a process of reconstructing DNA code from extinct species. In this process, the DNA of an extinct species is inserted into the stem cells of a closely related living creature. Over a period of time, the receiver of the DNA code will eventually develop into the form of the 'extinct' species.

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