STOCKHOLM: Scientists have for the first time recovered RNA from an extinct species, the Tasmanian tiger, raising hope for the resurrection of animals once thought lost forever, Stockholm University researchers said.
“RNA has never been extracted and sequenced from an extinct species before,” said Love Dalen, a Stockholm University professor of evolutionary genomics who co-led the project.
“The ability to recover RNA from extinct species constitutes a small step (toward) maybe being able to resurrect extinct species in the future,” he said.
Dalen and his team were able to sequence RNA molecules from a 130-year-old Tasmanian tiger specimen preserved at room temperature in Sweden’s Museum of Natural History.
With this they were able to reconstruct skin and skeletal muscle RNA.
RNA is a molecule that is used to convey information from the genome to the rest of the cell about what it should do.
“If you’re going to resurrect an extinct animal, then you need to know where the genes are and what they do, and in what tissues they are regulated,” Dalen said, explaining the need for knowledge about both DNA and RNA.
The last known living Tasmanian tiger or thylacine, a carnivorous marsupial, died in captivity in 1936 at the Beaumaris Zoo in Tasmania.
After European colonisation of Australia, the animal was declared a pest and in 1888 a bounty was offered for each full-grown animal killed. Scientists have focused their de-extinction efforts on the Tasmanian tiger as its natural habitat in Tasmania is largely preserved.
Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2023