A researcher from Stockholm University claims that scientists have successfully extracted and sequenced RNA from the extinct Tasmanian tiger. The discovery gives rise to optimism for the possible rebirth of extinct species.
According to Stockholm University assistant professor of molecular biology Marc Friedländer, RNA has never been isolated and sequenced from a species that has since gone extinct. Recovering RNA from ancient species is a preliminary step toward maybe resurrecting extinct species in the future, according to Love Dalen, a professor of evolutionary genomics at Stockholm University who co-led the experiment.
The RNA molecules of a Tasmanian tiger specimen kept at room temperature for 130 years in the Swedish Museum of Natural History were sequenced by Dalen and his team. Skin and skeletal muscle RNA were successfully reconstructed. Information about the cell’s functions is relayed from the genome to the rest of the cell via RNA.
Understanding the location and function of genes and how they are regulated in various tissues is essential for resurrecting an extinct species.
DNA is permanent and may be stored for long, whereas RNA is short-lived and easily destroyed. In this sense, the novel method is a proof of concept. A few novel genes could not have been uncovered with DNA sequencing alone.
In 1936, the last surviving Tasmanian tiger passed away at the Beaumaris Zoo in Tasmania. Because of Tasmania’s pristine wilderness, scientists have prioritized bringing the Tasmanian tiger back from the brink of extinction. Resurrecting extinct species raises ethical questions, such as whether or not it is right to undo the damage caused by humans.
The curator of the Museum of Natural History’s mammal collection, Daniela Kalthoff, has spoken enthusiastically about the prospect of bringing back the Tasmanian tiger.
Dodo birds are the extinct animals the public is most familiar with, but there hasn’t been an expressed desire to have them return to nature.
Just because scientists can, should they?