There's a Thylacine that's found in Tasmania, unfortunately they only found a single female specimen. It it possible to grow Thylacines artificially (say like in an artificial womb) of both male and female sexes even though the donor is female?


  • $\begingroup$ I think you can clone a Thylacine embryo and use the mother as an incubator, but that offspring will have a lot of genetic problems due to the complete lack of genetic diversity. $\endgroup$ Commented May 18, 2018 at 22:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If the female is mature enough you could try to clone her and impregnate her with herself. $\endgroup$
    – Tridam
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 22:21
  • $\begingroup$ Honestly, I didn't really consider it. I thought it would be more economic to try to breed 20 or so simultaneously, in artificial wombs rather than risk the health of the specimen. In hindsight this should have been my question. $\endgroup$
    – MnIce
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 22:39

2 Answers 2

  1. Collect cells from thylacine.

  2. Engineer cells by swapping out native genes and swapping in DNA from cells taken from museum specimens of thylacines.

  3. Implant engineered cells in immunodeficient mouse hosts. Depicted: immunodeficient mouse hosting human hair follicles.

immunodeficient mouse with implanted human hair follicles https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/18/cure-for-baldness-mouse-stem-cells_n_1435486.html

Cells can be assessed for viability. I can imagine that inserting DNA from long dead creatures might be hit or miss.

  1. Proven viable engineered cells thylacine cells can be harvested from mouse and used to produce clones. Clones can be gestated by surrogate mother animals. This method was proposed to resurrect mammoths, using elephants as the surrogate mothers. Then they decided that would be mean to the elephant so they would use some freaky artificial womb instead. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/02/16/harvard-scientists-pledge-bring-back-woolly-mammoth-extinction/

    Elephant cow: would you rather work your Thailand construction site and step on sharp tiles, or host a ten million dollar experiment within you and be pampered all day?

This method would let you generate a lot of genetically diverse thylacines with loads of redundancy and allowance for even a high rate of error and failure. There are hundreds of museum specimens around the world. There are as many immunodeficient mice as you care to raise. All your female thylacine needs to deliver are cells and she has lots of them.


Partially yes, though doing it today would probably be hard.

The problems here are threefold:

No male gamete donors

This may not be a problem. Viable bi-maternal embryos have been created in a variety of species at this point. The fact that both the gametes would be coming from the same parent is another problem, namely...

Genetic Bottleneck

Parthenogenesis doesn't tend to work for sexed creatures, even when artificially induced, because of imprinting locations in our genetic sequences. We're big into recombination, because it gives us additional avenues for beneficial mutation and recombination, without reinforcing negative traits.

Potentially, you could use CRISPR to modify the genes in one of the manipulated gametes or eggs to increase heterozygosity. This is strictly experimental right now, though, and would be unlikely to produce viable offspring in this "one chance or you'll miss it" preservation of the species unless a desperate effort were made. Cloning potentially buys you some time here.

Artificial Womb

This is probably wholly unnecessary. While a Thylacine is part of a largely-extinct family, as long as its reproductive characteristics are sufficiently close to an extant mammal, a surrogacy could probably be maintained.


So, if this were to happen today, the species would probably be done for, though genetic samples could be preserved for cloning/recombination at a later date. We're very close, however, technologically, to being able to recover the species from a single specimen.

The one caveat - no male specimens, until and unless we figure out how to manufacture a Y-chromosome from whole cloth. We could potentially find a close relative and do some substantial genetic engineering on its gametes, but that is not something we're close to being able to do right now.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .