13 January 2009

IT Lessons from the Thylacine's Genome

The thylacine is a near-mythic animal. A marsupial related to the kangaroo, it was wiped out early in the last century, surviving just long enough for a few specimens to be pickled in jars. As usual, mankind was responsible, hunting the animal to extinction. But not entirely:

Scientists have detailed a significant proportion of the genes found in the extinct Tasmanian "tiger".

The international team extracted the hereditary information from the hair of preserved animal remains held in Swedish and US museums.

The information has allowed scientists to confirm the tiger's evolutionary relationship to other marsupials.

The study, reported in the journal Genome Research, may also give pointers as to why some animals die out.

The two tigers examined had near-identical DNA, suggesting there was very little genetic diversity in the species when it went over the edge.

Although it was hunting that finally drove the Australian animal out of existence, its longevity as a species may already have been fatally compromised, the researchers believe.

So if *you* want to avoid the tragic fate of the thylacine, remember: avoid those Microsoft monocultures, wallow in the genetic diversity of the free software ecosystem.

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