Geneticists have made a groundbreaking discovery by extracting and decoding RNA molecules from an extinct Tasmanian tiger specimen that was preserved for 130 years at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm. This achievement, detailed in Genome Research, provides valuable insights into the genetics and biology of this enigmatic marsupial predator.The Tasmanian tiger vanished from most habitats about 2,000 years ago due to European settlers’ hunting, surviving only in a small population in Tasmania. Though the research didn’t aim to revive the species, the insights into thylacine genetics could aid de-extinction efforts. Andrew Pask, leading the Tasmanian tiger resurrection project, called this discovery “revolutionary,” emphasizing its potential to enhance our understanding of extinct creatures and genome reconstruction.

Recent breakthroughs defy the notion that only DNA endures in ancient samples. Extracting fragile RNA from the Tasmanian tiger, which deteriorates faster than DNA, opens avenues to study RNA in extinct animals like the woolly mammoth. By sequencing RNA from the specimen’s tissues and identifying thylacine-specific genes, the researchers unveil novel ways to understand the animal’s biology in unprecedented detail. In essence, RNA offers a closer examination of an extinct species’ metabolism and biology, akin to exploring recipes in a cookbook, enhancing our traditional DNA-based knowledge.