Nothing ruins a weekend quicker than going extinct. For the gastric-brooding frog (officially called the Rheobatrachus), extinction ruined more than one weekend actually – it has been gone now since 1983. Luckily, it looks like the species of frog might be getting a second lease on life very soon if Mike Archer of the University of New South Wales has anything to say about it.
The gastric-brooding frog was discovered in 1972, but it didn’t take long for the species to disappear altogether. While it is theoretically possible that small samples of living Rheobatrachus might still be out there somewhere, we haven’t come into contact with them for thirty years now.
What’s so special about a frog that Archer hopes to bring it back to life? The gastric-brooding frog is a bit of a freak of nature, in a cool sort of way. The frog lays its eggs, swallows them and then stops producing stomach acid so they can hatch in her belly and live as tadpoles. Six weeks later, she throws them back up and they are ‘born’.
Yes, it’s more than a little gross, but the frog’s uniqueness makes it worth saving. So how are they going to get the job done? Cloning of course. Archer has already begun the process of cellular division by injecting DNA into another frog’s eggs, making use of tissue samples that have been kept in a freezer all this time.
According to Archer, the processor has hit a snag at the embryo stage but with further research they believe they can get past the problem. Beyond the ‘cool factor’ of bringing back the frog species, Archer also offers up another reason for why he is doing this. “If we were responsible for the extinction of the species, deliberately or inadvertently, we have a moral responsibility or imperative to undo that if we can.”
What do you think of Archer’s attempts at bringing back the species, pretty cool huh?