Scientists first sequenced Tasmanian wolf genome
On the mainland, tilacins (Thylacinus cynocephalus), apparently, became extinct due to competition with another predator - the dingo dog. However, in Tasmania, which was isolated due to sea level rise for 14, 000 years, these animals lived until the 20th century.
In the first half of the last century, the Australian government considered wolves a threat to livestock, and it launched a massive hunting campaign. In 1936, the Tasmanian wolf was recognized as an extinct species. Because of this, it is poorly studied: scientists know little about his behavior, range, diet, and even about which of the animals is his closest relative.
However, now researchers have finally sequenced the Tasmanian wolf genome (obtained from a museum sample 100 years ago). As the lead author of the study, Andrew Pask from the University of Melbourne, notes that this allowed us to determine the place of tilacins in the evolutionary tree. The animal, according to the scientist, belongs to the sister branch of predatory marsupials, a detachment including the Tasmanian devil and narrow-legged marsupial mouse. The results of a new study are briefly reported by the ScienceAlert portal.
The study also confirmed that the Tasmanian wolf was a product of convergent evolution - when two unrelated animals develop the same features in order to adapt to similar environmental conditions and occupy an ecological niche.
Although it is a marsupial wolf with a brood pouch (a skin device for carrying an egg or underdeveloped pups in echidnas and marsupials), the skull of tilacins was more like the skull of a red fox or gray wolf.
Researchers also learned more about the extinction of the Tasmanian wolves. Experts have suggested that their disappearance is the result of not only extermination by humans, but also of very poor health. This is probably due to the small genetic diversity of these animals, who lived for a long time in isolation from the mainland. That is, as scientists believe, even before the extermination, the Tasmanian wolves were on the verge of extinction. (However, this does not detract from human responsibility - it is entirely possible that the animal population could be saved.)
According to Pask, the researchers hope that the results will help to better understand the genetic basis of extinction of animals and help endangered species (in particular, the Tasmanian devil).
The study was published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.