Pask, Andrew J. Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Menzies, Brandon R. Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany.
- Thylacine diversity
- Thylacine functional genomics
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The thylacine or Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) was a large, carnivorous Australian marsupial. Like most marsupials, female thylacines gave birth to very small young that completed the majority of their development attached to a teat in the pouch of their mothers. What made the thylacine so unique among the marsupials was its body form. The thylacine was almost indistinguishable from a dog (Fig. 1). Despite their extremely similar appearance, the thylacine last shared a common ancestor with the dog (a eutherian mammal) approximately 160 million years ago (Fig. 2). Both animals have evolved over time to develop a similar body plan through a process known as convergent evolution. In fact, the marsupial thylacine and the eutherian dog are the most striking example of convergent evolution ever described in mammals. This makes the genome of the thylacine especially interesting because it may be possible to identify the molecular changes that resulted in its doglike body form. This could be achieved by looking for similarities between the genome of the thylacine and that of the dog (completed in 2005).
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