Extinct Frog Species Cloned

No, it isn’t news of a full extinct species restoration, but scientists did successfully clone cells from an extinct frog species. Researchers in Australia used somatic cell nuclear transfer to make gastric brooding frog embryos. Cell nuclei were taken from tissue samples of the extinct species collected in the 1970s. Then they were placed in body cells taken from the great barred frog, a related species. Some of these cells began to divide to the point they reached an early embryo phase, but did not survive more than a few days.

Image Credit: petermaas.nl
Image Credit: petermaas.nl

Tests showed the human-made embryos genetically are gastric brooding frogs. The scientists said they are confident they have some chance of growing the embryos to maturity and therefore bringing the species back to life. There are still technological and procedural obstacles to overcome, but their work could offer a new hope for species long gone from this planet, at least, in very small numbers.

The Northern Gastric-Brooding Frog (Rheobatrachus vitellinus) and the Southern Gastric-Brooding Frog (Rheobatrachus silus) were only officially discovered in 1973. Ten years later they were extinct from their only habit – the rivers and woodlands of Eastern Australia. It was probably the same fungal infection (chytrid) that has decimated frogs worldwide that killed the gastric brooding frogs. Habitat loss and pollution might have also been factors.

If you are wondering about the odd name of the species, it is due to their method of raising babies. Once fertilized, females would take eggs into their mouths and swallow them. The eggs contain a chemical that switches off acid production in the stomach, so it becomes a safe place for them to develop. The hatchlings also have this chemical. When they emerge from their eggs, they remain in the stomach cavity until they mature into small frogs and then travel up into the mouth.

Many amphibian species have been very damaged by the chytrid fungus, or wiped out. Hopefully, the scientists will prevail and be able to bring some of them back to live in controlled, safe environments.

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