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Extinct frog that gives birth from its mouth nearly brought back to life

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Gastric Brooding Frog
Gastric Brooding Frog

If ever there was a heartwarming (or stomach-turning, depending on your affinity for amphibians) story to kick off your weekend, it is this one. Mike Archer, a scientist at the University of New South Wales, is on the cusp of successfully cloning an extinct species of frog called Rheobatrachus, better known as the gastric-brooding frog. The frog, which went from initial discovery in 1972 to its eventual extinction in 1983, is famous for the unique way it gives birth. As discovered by Mike Tyler of the University of Adelaide, the mother literally swallows its own eggs and then stops producing stomach acid so they can hatch in her belly, live as tadpoles, and six weeks later are "born" as the mother frog vomits them up.

So far, using tissue samples that were kept in a freezer, Archer has managed to bring the process of cellular division by injecting DNA into another frog's eggs. However, the whole process has hit a snag at the embryo stage, but that's enough to give hope for future success — it's apparently a technical problem more than anything else. "We retain our vibrant optimism," Archer says.

Archer is one of many scientists working to try to resurrect extinct species. There's ostensibly medical interest for bringing back this particular frog — being able to turn off stomach acid is potentially important, but he's pursuing it for a more traditional reason. "If we were responsible for the extinction of the species, deliberately or inadvertently," he said to National Geographic, "we have a moral responsibility or imperative to undo that if we can."