A frog species gone extinct since 1983 has been brought back to life. This could be the first step towards resurrecting long extinct animals, but do we really need it?
Scientists at the University of New South Wales’ Lazarus Project announced they have reproduced the genome (the biological material that carries our genetic structure) of an extinct Australian frog species, the gastric brooding frog.
The frog once lived in the rainforests of Queensland, Australia, and was declared extinct in 1983. It was a remarkable amphibian that swallowed its fertilised eggs, brooded its young in its stomach and then gave birth to baby frogs through its mouth. Yes, its mouth.
According to the leader of the experiment, Professor Mike Archer, the team took tissue from a frog that had been dead and frozen since the 1970s and implanted it successfully in an egg from a closely related frog species.
Although none of the embryos survived beyond a few days, genetic tests confirmed that the dividing cells do indeed contain the genetic material from the extinct frog. And even a brief existence stirred excitement that this technique could lead to a way of recreating lost species.
“We’re increasingly confident that the hurdles ahead are technological, not biological,” Professor Archer told The Guardian newspaper, adding that they’ve already begun work on cloning a Tasmanian tiger, which disappeared in the 1930s.
Since the 2013 announcement, the team has been reassessing their techniques and researching developments overseas in an attempt to overcome the obstacle of the embryos failing to grow into tadpoles. Cloning experiments can be conducted for only a week a year in summer, due to the breeding cycle of the host frog.
“We are not giving up. We are still hopeful that we will succeed and be able to bring this wonderful frog back to life within a few years,” says Professor Archer. “In fact, we have an ethical responsibility to keep going and to try to undo the harm that we have done in contributing to its extinction.”
Of course, how for we should go with that ethical responisbility is hard to say. Should it be just animals we have made go extinct? Or should we go on and attempt to bring back the woolly mammoth too? Then, what could ever stop us from making Jurassic Park come true?
That’s also an important ethical consideration.