Latest in Science

Image credit:

Brain scans shed light on an extinct species

The Tasmanian tiger has been gone for decades, but that isn't preventing modern science from making discoveries.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
January 23, 2017
Share
Tweet
Share

Sponsored Links

Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

It's not exactly easy to study the Tasmanian tiger. The marsupial has been extinct for over 80 years, and it wasn't given much scientific attention when it was alive -- settlers saw it as a threat to their livestock, not a curiosity. However, that isn't about to stop scientists from learning more about the sadly neglected species. Researchers have scanned two preserved Tasmanian tiger brains and discovered that the creatures were considerably more intelligent than many thought. While their brains were similar to those of Tasmanian devils, their larger frontal lobes suggest they were better at planning and making decisions. That backs the belief that they were hunters, not scavengers like their genetic cousins.

The team accomplished the feat by using two different scanning methods. MRI scans helped analyze the brains' gray matter, while diffusion tensor imaging looked at the white matter. Due to the sheer age of these particular tiger samples (over 100 years old), the scientists had to recreate the white matter by tracing specific tracts and generating virtual models.

There's only so much the team can do with its knowledge when there are no living animals to save. It could help researchers understand other species that went extinct relatively recently, however. And even if the lessons learned here didn't translate elsewhere, they paint a clearer historical picture. While there's no doubt that colonists were cruel to the Tasmanian tiger, we now know that they also underestimated its abilities.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

Engadget's 2020 Back-to-School Guide

Engadget's 2020 Back-to-School Guide

View
Trump executive order seeks to ban TikTok, WeChat 'transactions' in 45 days

Trump executive order seeks to ban TikTok, WeChat 'transactions' in 45 days

View
The Morning After: Our favorite noise-canceling headphones got an upgrade

The Morning After: Our favorite noise-canceling headphones got an upgrade

View
Disney has no idea what it's doing with 'Mulan'

Disney has no idea what it's doing with 'Mulan'

View
20GB of Intel internal documents were leaked online

20GB of Intel internal documents were leaked online

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr