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Weekly: First ever RNA from an extinct animal; big news about small solar system objects; “brainless” jellyfish can still learn

22 September 2023

About this episode


For the first time ever, a team has extracted RNA from an extinct animal. Thylacines, or Tasmanian tigers, are carnivorous marsupials that went extinct in the early 20th century. While we’ve been extracting DNA from extinct animals for years, getting their RNA has been much more difficult. What can this breakthrough tell us about the lives they led?

What is consciousness and how does it work? There’s a reason this is known as “the hard problem” of neuroscience. Everyone wants an answer but only a handful of convincing theories exist. And now, one of the more compelling theories - integrated information theory, or IIT - has come under fire. Are critics right to label it ‘pseudoscience’?

Eris and Makemake are two dwarf planets that orbit in the Kuiper belt in the outer reaches of our solar system. They’re small, icy objects that receive little sunlight, so we might expect them to be pretty boring – but it seems we were wrong. Why a closer look from the James Webb Space Telescope is painting an intriguing new picture, one that may include liquid water.

Despite not having brains, Caribbean box jellyfish still have the capacity to learn. How are they processing the information without a centralised brain? One team thinks it could have something to do with their 24 eye-like structures. Find out how they tested this theory.

Plus: A new kind of ‘reverse vaccine’ that could help people with autoimmune diseases, the earliest evidence of human ancestors building wooden structures, and counting the number of cells in a human body. 

Hosts Christie Taylor and Chelsea Whyte discuss all of this with guests Clare Wilson, Leah Crane and Corryn Wetzel. To read more about these stories, visit

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