EXHIBITS: A Possum in Wolf's Clothing

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Science  23 Jun 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5781, pp. 1721
DOI: 10.1126/science.312.5781.1721a

The thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus), had a tiger's stripes, a wolf's physique, and a kangaroo's pouch. The Thylacine Museum, curated by natural history enthusiast Cameron Campbell of Fort Worth, Texas, brims with data and lore about the carnivorous Australian marsupial, which most researchers think died out in the mid-1900s.

The animal comes alive in the film section, which features seven clips of captive animals. The thylacine has become a conservation symbol, and the site details human persecution of the species. Between 1888 and 1910, hunters seeking a government bounty slaughtered more than 2000 of the animals remaining in Tasmania, although disease might have spurred the species' collapse. No conclusive evidence of thylacines has turned up since the last zoo specimen died in 1936. But some people, including Campbell, hold out hope that a few individuals hang on—or that the species can be resurrected. The museum recounts many unsuccessful expeditions that have searched for survivors and describes some of the difficulties facing an on-again, off-again project to clone thylacines using DNA from preserved specimens.


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