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'Extinct' Zebra Subspecies Revived In South Africa

First Posted: Feb 12, 2016 01:15 PM EST

An extinct zebra subspecies has been revived in South Africa. A team of scientists and conservationists believe that they have recreated an extinct, subspecies of the plains zebra, according to a new release. Quaggas became extinct during the 19th century, where they were wiped out by colonial hunters.

Quaggas are different from typical zebras, as their stripes don't stand out like typical black and white zebras. The last original quagga found in South Africa's Western Cape region died in 1883 in an Amsterdam zoo.

The Quagga Project has applied selective breeding of plains zebra to produce animal that seems much like the extinct quaggas that freely roamed the territories hundreds of years ago. Researchers had analyzed DNA samples from a quagga skin at the South African Museum, where they found that it was the same as the DNA of the vividly-striped plains zebra. With this discovery, researchers set about to re-breed the quagga.

Each of the generations has displayed more quagga colors. By the fifth generation, the researchers believed that they had successfully recreated the quagga. The Quagga Project has about 100 zebras on its reserve, where six animals from the fourth and fifth generations have been categorized as true representations of the extinct quaggas. Unlike hybrid animals, the quaggas are expected to reproduce.  

"We don't do genetic engineering, we aren't cloning, we aren't doing any particularly clever sort of embryo transfers - it is a very simple project of selective breeding," Eric Harley, a retired chemical pathology professor from the University of Cape Town, said in a news release. "We obviously want to keep them separate from other populations of plains zebra otherwise we simply mix them up again and lose the characteristic appearance."

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