What Happened to the Tasmanian Tiger Clone Project?

As of April 2012, heart, liver, muscle and bone marrow tissue had been extracted from a 6-month-old Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, that had been preserved in alcohol since 1866. In 2013, Australian scientists successfully extracted intact genes from their specimen. Lead scientist of the Lazarus Project Prof. Mike Archer estimated that it would take another 10 to 15 years to clone a thylacine.

As of 2014, Archer’s mission is to reconstruct the thylacine’s entire genetic code with very few exemplars to draw on. The last thylacine in captivity died in 1936. Besides the specimen in Archer’s university museum collection, only two examples exist: a skeleton in Heidelberg, Germany, and a mounted specimen in Zurich, Switzerland.

Other scientists suggest that the Tasmanian tiger population may have suffered from more than habitat destruction and hunting. Research reveals that thylacines may have had even poorer genetic diversity than their relatives the Tasmanian devils due to the geographic isolation of Tasmania 10,000 to 13,000 years ago. Despite their name, thylacines were actually dog-like marsupials; they got their name "Tasmanian tiger" due to their striped coats. They were unique to Australia and Tasmania. Targeted as livestock killers by white settlers in 1888, thylacines were hunted to extinction.