Discover the Extinct Animal Scientists Just Recovered RNA From

3D Illustration of Tasmanian Tiger or Thylacine
Daniel Eskridge/

Written by Rachael Monson

Updated: October 12, 2023

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According to one report, scientists at Stockholm University recently recovered RNA from an extinct animal, the Tasmanian Tiger. One of the scientists stated they hope with this new information, we will be able to sequence viruses from preserved animal tissues. Another study revealed that learning the DNA of an extinct animal is not enough, the RNA must also be recovered and studied to understand how to recreate such a being. The RNA recovered from the extinct Tasmanian tiger is considered highly valuable. They also mentioned researching the resurrection of wooly mammoths and hoped that RNA research could be applied to human medicine.

Let’s learn more about RNA and the extinct animal from which it was recently recovered!

What is RNA?

RNA is part of every living organism’s cells and helps with information within DNA.

RNA, or Ribonucleic Acid, is found within each cell in every living organism. Its purpose is to read and interpret instructions laid out within DNA. Essentially, RNA tells cells what proteins to produce so they can become different cells needed to form an organism. Think of RNA as a mechanic who reads a car’s service manual and then uses what he learns to create an entirely new car based on the information given. Each set of instructions tells him which parts go where and what to make them from. RNA study is important to human medicine because many of the pandemic-causing viruses in our recent history attack RNA in our own cells. If scientists can figure out how these invasive RNA viruses work to change the instructions within our cells, they may be able to stop them from doing it.

What is a Tasmanian Tiger?

Tasmanian tiger inside Washington, DC zoo photographed in 1902

Pair of Tasmanian tigers in enclosure at the National Zoo in Washington, DC

The RNA was recovered from a Tasmanian tiger, a species that went extinct in 1936 when the last remaining specimen died in the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart, Tasmania. Although called a tiger, this creature was actually a carnivorous marsupial. Their name comes from their natural location and their coat color of brown with black tiger-like stripes.

Also called the Tasmanian wolf, it was native to Australia and the surrounding islands. Many people blamed their extinction on excessive hunting, but that’s only part of the story. The species was plagued with disease from the introduction of dingoes and other wild dogs. The influx of competitors left them fighting for resources like prey and territory. When European settlers arrived in the area in the 1800s, they put out bounties on the creatures. Before the program ended in 1909, more than 2,100 bounties had been awarded. Between the bounties, the strange diseases introduced by foreign canines, and habitat loss – their chances of survival were slim.

The Tasmanian tiger belonged to the Dasyuridae family, which includes numbats, dunnarts, wambengers, and quolls. With this new discovery, scientists are talking about the comeback of these creatures. Would you be interested in seeing a living Tasmanian tiger?

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About the Author

Rachael Monson is a writer at A-Z-Animals where her primary focus is cats, big and small. She also works as senior veterinary assistant and has been in that field since 2012. A resident of Mississippi, she enjoys spending her off time playing video games with her husband and hanging out with her pets (a Bengal cat named Citrine and Basset Hound/Pomeranian mix dog named Pepsi).

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