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Tasmanian Tiger “Back From Extinction” Thanks to 3D Printing at AnatomicsRx

Perhaps the most well-known extinct species within Australia, the thylacine (also known as the Tasmanian tiger) achieved extinction in around 1936 but thanks to recent innovations made in 3D printing and scanning technology it is now possible for thylacine to live again.

The thylacine was once the largest marsupial in existence and native to the islands of Australia and New Guinea. The species was believed to have been fairly reclusive and nocturnal as well as an effective and opportunistic hunter. The thylacine stood at around 1.5 – 1.85m long (including the tail) and .6m wide. The adult thylacine weighed in at around 25kg and possessed the unique ability to open its jaws at an 80 degree angle which no doubt contributed to its success as a hunter.

The thylacine also possessed unusual movement leaving it unable to run at a high speed, this has led many researches to conclude that the thylacine relied mostly on stamina rather than speed during a hunt, not unlike the hunting strategy of a human. Like all other marsupials the thylacine possessed a pouch to house its young however unlike other marsupials the pouch opened at the rear of the body.

The thylacine’s existence in mainland Australia was brought to a halt roughly 2000 years ago. This extinction was believed to have been caused by competition from indigenous Australians as well as the dingo, which became the preferred hunting companion of the indigenous. Although the thylacine sported a stronger build than the dingo a comparison of the skulls of both animals showed that even though the dingo possessed a weaker bite its skull could withstand more stress making it able to bring down larger prey more effectively. The above factors in combination with a highly selective diet and poor genetic diversity are believed to be responsible for the thylacine’s extinction in mainland Australia.

While mainland Australia was not a very hospitable environment for the thylacine, Tasmania proved to be far more profitable, possibly due to a lack of competition. However, as Tasmania began to experience European settlement the thylacine’s fortunes began to turn. Being an opportunistic hunter the thylacine would often raid livestock leading to the establishment of bounty payments for dead thylacines.

With the incentive of a bounty the thylacine began being killed off rapidly and after just 100 years of thylacine killings the final wild member of the species was shot and killed in 1930 [5][6]. The final thylacine met its end soon after in 1936 under similarly tragic circumstances, a zookeeper forgot to lock the animal into its enclosure for the night resulting in death due to exposure to the elements.

A living thylacine has not been seen since 1936 and thus the species is considered extinct, however, there have been many unconfirmed sightings, some as recently as 2016. A reward for the capture of a live thylacine still exists to this day.

A complete resin replica of a Thylacinus Cynocephalus skeleton (#A300) from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery was produced using Anatomics BioModelling techniques, from a 3D CT scan accurate to 0.9mm. This reduced the risk of damage from traditional moulding techniques (leaving a residue on the bones, or breakages).

An added bonus is that the replicas contain internal structures such as the brain cavity and nasal bones that are not replicated in traditional casts.

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