A bizarre frog species, which was last seen in 1983, was made alive using a cloning technique where the nucleus of a dead cell is made to replace a nucleus of its nearest egg species. This scientific breakthrough has opened a door for saving catastrophically endangered species and can be very instrumental to life and the ecosystem. Scientists at the University of New South Wales in Sydney recently announced that they have successfully resurrected the genome of the Gastric Brooding Frog, an extinct Australian frog that once lived in the rainforest region of Queensland, Australia.
What’s So Special about this Frog?
This extinct gastric-brooding frog is indeed special as it is the only living creature in this universe that uses its mouth to give birth to its babies.
YES…you heard right!!!
These frogs reproduce through their mouths. The mother frog would take the fertilized eggs into her mouth from the male frogs and swallow them. It then breeds them in the stomach and gives birth to its offsprings by vomiting them out of its mouth in a single go.
The report claims that a deadly kind of fungus had wiped out nearly 100 species of frogs including this extremely mysterious gastric-brooding frog from the world. It says that due to traveling in countries and trading of pets, this Chytrid virus eventually made its way to Australia. These fungi, having found a cool and moist environment there, thrived and eventually wiped out this frog species totally.
Its unusual mating process took the interest of the medical field who thought this could certainly be of medical purpose. They believed that this extremely rare frog is the ultimate key in treating stomach ulcers, and the ingredient lies in its stomach.
The unusual process of reproduction involves secretion of a hormone that prevents the hydrochloric acid from generating in the stomach just before swallowing of the fertilized eggs by the female frogs. In the presence of hydrochloric acid, the eggs would have been destroyed. In humans, hydrochloric acid holds the key contribution to the formation of ulcers, and with this special hormone in hands; the cure could have been inevitably possible.
Amphibian expert Dr. Reid Tingley says, “The ideas of the health benefits are vague since only a little research was possible as the frog, unfortunately, went extinct since the 1980s.” So this was one of the prime reasons as to why this frog was chosen first to bring back to life by the scientists.
How Actually is the Resurrection Carried Out?
Scientists are using a somatic cell cloning technique to bring back the dead ones. Here, scientists take the DNA from the cells of an extinct species and implant it in an egg of the most closely resembling species of that particular animal. Although the embryo of the gastric-brooding frog was alive just for three days, scientists are closer than ever. They have full faith in recreating the lost species through this technique.
A scientist of the University of New South Wales said: “The cloning will result in an embryo that must be implanted in a closely related species to serve as a surrogate mother.”
Professor Mike Archer of the University of New South Wales said: “We’ve reactivated dead cells to live and have fresh cryo-preserved cells of the frog to use in future cloning experiments. We’ve demonstrated the great promise this technology has as a conservation tool when hundreds of the world’s amphibian species are in catastrophic decline.”
What do Scientists believe?
Scientists are confident that hurdles that they are going to face ahead regarding resurrection are not biological, rather technological.
George Church, a Harvard Medical School geneticist, says that there are numerous advantages of bringing the extinct species back to life. For example, during Woolly mammoths reign in the Arctic regions, they enabled Arctic grasses to flourish by knocking down trees. In the absence of trees, sunlight was reflected more, and the ground was a lot cooler. In winter, these animals would tramp down snow into the permafrost, enhancing it. Thus, bringing them back could drastically benefit the current worsening global temperature there.
There are the Passenger Pigeons, the Dodo, the crescent nails tail wallaby, and even some of the ones that are endangered now catastrophically like the North Queensland hairy nose wombat. So many of them wishing from their graves that the method works and waiting for their turn to get a second chance at life.
“But do we owe the duties of giving justice to non-human species that got extinct due to our irresponsible activities? If so, where the boundaries will be drawn? How much money do we have to spend? How many species do we have to bring back?”- Dr. Greely, a scientist of the same team, asked with concern. But he was at the same fascinated to see all those creatures back in the world.
“It is the Pleistocene Park about 100,000 or 200,000 years ago, that we’re talking about. Not the sci-fi Jurassic Park. Moreover, there are an awful lot of cool things that died within the past 200,000 years,” Mr. Greely said.
Although it is exciting to see the extinct species come back to life, it is undeniable that their resurrection may consider us feeling like the Gods—the gods who can bring the dead back to life. Also, to what extent this scientific breakthrough will take is very uncertain and difficult to predict.
What else will ever stop us from making the Jurassic Park a reality, after all these?
That’s an equally ethical question to consider.