The carcass of a 14,300 year old wolf puppy was pulled from thawing permafrost in Siberia in 2015. Scientists have successfully extracted RNA from the specimen, the first time this has happened with such an old creature.
DNA has been found in much older specimens but RNA is unique.
DNA encodes the hard copy of genes, and can survive thousands of years if conditions are right, reported The Siberian Times. But RNA is seen as short-lived: it is the working copy of a gene.
DNA analysis shows what kind of genes a species had, while RNA explains which genes were working and which were silent. Now Dr Oliver Smith, of Copenhagen University, and his colleagues analysed the RNA from the liver, cartilage and muscle tissue of the ancient animal.
‘The scientists showed that the RNA sequenced from liver tissue of the Tumat puppy was truly representative of the animal’s RNA, with many liver-specific transcripts that matched more modern samples from both wolves and dogs,’ reported sci-news.com
‘The canid’s transcriptome is the oldest RNA sequenced by far, surpassing the next oldest transcriptome by at least 13,000 years.’
Dr Smith said: ‘Ancient DNA researchers have previously been reluctant to attempt to sequence ancient RNA because it is generally more unstable than DNA, and more prone to enzymatic degradation.
‘However, following our recent successes in sequencing ancient RNA from plant material, we speculated that a well-preserved animal specimen, frozen in the permafrost, just might retain enough material to sequence..
‘To our delight, we found that not only did we find RNA from various tissues, but in some case the signal was so strong that we could distinguish between tissues in a way that makes biological sense.’
Some Russian officials have proposed cloning extinct animals in Siberia as a way to bring the area back to its original form. Scientists have even confirmed the recent find of a Siberian foal will be cloned.
Is Jurassic Park coming sooner than we think?
- 55,000 Year Old Siberian Cave Lion Found Intact, Could Be Cloned
- Siberian Scientists Take Samples From 40,000 Year Old Extinct Horse, With The Intention To Clone It…What Could Go Wrong?