In 1999, Professor Michael
Archer (then Director of the Australian Museum in Sydney) instigated a
bold and ambitious plan to clone the thylacine. The project's
research team obtained tissue samples from the internal organs of a female
that had been preserved in alcohol for well over a century. Their
goal was to extract viable DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) with a view to recreating
the species through cloning. A clone is any organism whose genetic
information is identical to that of the parent organism from which it was
DNA, albeit highly fragmented,
was extracted from the tissues of the pup. In addition, DNA was also
extracted from thylacine bone and tooth specimens
from within the Australian Museum's collection. Interestingly, the
best quality DNA
recovered by the research team was from the tooth specimen,
and not the preserved pup.
By the middle of 2002,
after over two years of intensive research, the Australian Museum succeeded
in replicating individual thylacine genes using the PCR (Polymerase
Chain Reaction) process.
It is not within the
confines of this presentation to discuss the complexities of the cloning
process itself, but it is worth highlighting some of the hurdles that any
scientific team will have to overcome if cloning of the thylacine is ever
to become a reality.