Scientists are getting close to bringing species back from extinction. It creates a whole new set of questions.
Every winter the number of southern gastric-brooding frogs in Australia would mysteriously diminish, their loud staccato calls gone missing from the forests in Queensland. Biologists — already fascinated by the females’ practice of swallowing fertilized eggs and giving birth orally after a period of gestation — hypothesized that the population of this unique species weas hibernating in deep rock crevices until they reemerged with the summer rains. But before the frog could be studied further, the species went extinct in the wild in 1981. The last Rheobatrachus silus died in captivity in 1983.
For three decades, samples of the extinct frogs sat in a freezer. But this year, scientists in Australia announced that they have made an extraordinary first step towards bringing the frog back to life. Using the cloning technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer, a team at the University of New South Wales took fresh eggs from another amphibian species and replaced the eggs’ nuclei with that of the extinct species. In March, some of these eggs began to spontaneously divide over the course of several days, reaching the early embryonic stage.
“We are watching Lazarus arise from the dead, step by exciting step. We’ve reactivated dead cells into living ones and revived the extinct frog’s genome in the process,” said Mike Archer, a professor of paleobiology at the University of New South Wales. Archer is a member of the Lazarus Project, a “de-extinction” initiative focused on cloning and reintroducing the Southern Gastric-brooding frog to Australia. “We’re increasingly confident that the hurdles ahead are technological and not biological and that we will succeed.”
For the rest of the story: http://www.salon.com/2013/09/01/get_ready_for_the_rebirth_of_vanished_species/