In a groundbreaking achievement, geneticists have successfully extracted and decoded RNA molecules from an extinct species, shedding new light on the long-lost Tasmanian tiger. This remarkable feat was accomplished by researchers who took tissue samples from a 130-year-old preserved Tasmanian tiger specimen at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm. The findings, detailed in a study published in the scientific journal Genome Research, provide valuable insights into the genetics and biology of this enigmatic marsupial predator.The Tasmanian tiger, which vanished from most of its habitats around 2,000 years ago due to relentless hunting by European settlers, left only a small population on the Australian island state of Tasmania. While the primary goal of this research was not to bring the species back to life, the newfound knowledge of the thylacine’s genetic makeup may contribute to ongoing efforts at de-extinction. Andrew Pask, leading a project aimed at resurrecting the Tasmanian tiger, hailed this discovery as “groundbreaking” and emphasized its potential to deepen our understanding of extinct creatures and enhance genome reconstruction.

Recent breakthroughs challenge the belief that only DNA could survive in ancient samples. This study successfully retrieved fragile RNA from the Tasmanian tiger, a genetic material known to degrade faster than DNA. This achievement opens doors to exploring RNA in extinct animals, including the woolly mammoth. By sequencing RNA from the specimen’s tissues and identifying thylacine-specific genes, the research team unveils new avenues for understanding the animal’s biology in unprecedented detail. In essence, RNA provides scientists with a closer look at an extinct species’ metabolism and biology, much like exploring various recipes in a vast cookbook, complementing traditional DNA-based knowledge.