Scientists Clone Frog that Upchucks Its Offspring Back from Extinction

Why this frog in particular? Difficult to say.

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Alas, it still won’t give us feisty dinosaurs from the Triassic, but scientists have managed to use a cloning technique to resurrect an extinct frog that gives birth by upchucking its little ones.

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No really, this type of frog incubates its eggs in its stomach — a technique known as”gastric-brooding” — sort of like the gut-dwelling monstrosities in the Alien films. Except its completely non-sinister babies don’t come tearing out of their mother’s stomachs, they simply make their way up the gullet and out of the mouth. The eggs are coated in an acid-inhibiting substance, which allows the embryos to do their thing undisturbed.

And yet by 1983, gastric-brooding frogs had become extinct for reasons no one’s entirely clear on (scientists suspect various non-human causes, including habitat loss, parasites and a type of fungal infection). How do you bring an odd-sounding creature like this back? With somatic-cell nuclear transfer cloning, of course.

Popular Science explains that scientists at the University of Newscastle in Australia (the frogs had been native to the eastern part of the country) took a related frog, neutralized its eggs, then swapped them for eggs extracted from a gastric-brooding frog, harvested decades ago and cryo-preserved in a conventional freezer. Somatic-cell nuclear transfer, whereby an inert cell nucleus is implanted into a fresh egg, allowed the eggs to begin dividing and the process took wing from there.

What do you call a quest to resurrect a species that would otherwise have been lost forever? Amazing, of course, but also the “Lazarus Project” — what else?

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