The advent of RNA-sequencing (RNA-Seq) technologies has markedly improved our knowledge and expanded the compendium of small non-coding RNAs, most of which derive from the processing of longer RNA precursors. In this review article, we will present a nonexhaustive list of referenced small non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) derived from eukaryotic ribosomal RNA (rRNA), called rRNA fragments (rRFs). We will focus on the rRFs that are experimentally verified, and discuss their origin, length, structure, biogenesis, association with known regulatory proteins, and potential role(s) as regulator of gene expression. This relatively new class of ncRNAs remained poorly investigated and underappreciated until recently, due mainly to the a priori exclusion of rRNA sequences—because of their overabundance—from RNA-Seq datasets. The situation surrounding rRFs resembles that of microRNAs (miRNAs), which used to be readily discarded from further analyses, for more than five decades, because no one could believe that RNA of such a short length could bear biological significance. As if we had not yet learned our lesson not to restrain our investigative, scientific mind from challenging widely accepted beliefs or dogmas, and from looking for the hidden treasures in the most unexpected places.
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