Our initial report about thylacine DNA addresses the following questions:
In earlier work, we showed that hair shafts are an excellent source material for sequencing woolly mammoth specimens from the Siberian permafrost. This study shows that hair shafts are also a good source for mitochondrial sequences from museum-stored specimens preserved at room temperature as dried skins or in an ethanol solution.
Knowing the thylacine's complete mitochondrial genome has let us determine how the thylacine is related to other marsupials. In particular, we learned that the thylacine's closest living relatives include Tasmanian devils and certain other marsupials (e.g. numbats and quolls) that separated from the thylacine lineage around 40 million years ago.
Not all of the DNA in our samples was from the thylacines. In addition to filtering out contaminating DNA from the humans who handled the specimens over the years, it is also interesting to identify the types of microbes that were present, some from when the animal was alive and others resulting from specimen preparation and storage procedures.
This study successfully sequenced the thylacine mitochondrial genome, which is about 16,000 nucleotide bases in length. However, the main reservoir of genetic information is the nuclear genome, which is about 200,000 times longer. We estimate that about 30% of our data is thylacine nuclear DNA. This suggests that it will indeed be possible to sequence all of the thylacine's DNA.