Jurassic Frog: Controversial ‘de-extincting’ program raises hopes and fears

Gastric Brooding Frog. Artwork credit: Peter Schouten
The gastric brooding frog.
Credit: Peter Schouten

As the only animal to give birth through its mouth, the gastric-brooding frog fascinated scientists — until it became extinct in 1983. But this unique beast could live again thanks to a cloning breakthrough and become the first “de-extinct” species since a Pyrenean ibex survived for seven minutes in 2009.

New technology has allowed the Australian Lazarus Project to insert the frog’s genome — its complete DNA — into a similar species. The process, announced at the TEDx DeExtinction conference, is expected to produce the living animal within a few years, the project’s creators claim. “I’m sure we can get to that stage, and it will be exactly the same as the extinct frog,” Lazarus scientist Dr. Michael Mahony told Metro.

The team will produce several of the species, and claim the same technology could work for any organism – they are also working to revive the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger. Lazarus’ work is supported by de-extinctionist group Revive and Restore, which curated the TEDx conference, and intends to “de-extinct” 24 species ranging from plants to mammoths.

The plans have been controversial. “De-extinction supporters claim a moral imperative to restore species, but in many cases there is no place for them as their habitats have disappeared,” said National Geographic science writer Brian Switek. “They would be doomed again.”

Conservationists worry about the message. “It’s exciting but such efforts may lead to a false sense of security,” said Carly Waterman, director of Edge, an endangered species project run by the Zoological Society for London. “I would prefer to focus on species before they reach that stage.”

In a “Jurassic Park” scenario, restoring animals could put humans at risk. “It’s totally unpredictable,” said Natural History Museum extinction specialist Roberto Miguez. “The reason Tasmanian tigers became extinct is they were perceived as a threat to farmers.”

But he added: “I would be at the front of the queue to see one.”

Back from the dead

If Revive and Restore succeeds, expect to share space with these creatures:

  • Smilodon – Better known as the saber-tooth cat, believed to have hunted mammoths 10,000 years ago.
  • Woolly mammoth – Larger cousin of the elephant and already the subject of a Russian/South Korean cloning effort.
  • Dodo – Flightless bird that was reportedly made extinct in the 17th century.
  • Yangtze River dolphin – The last one died in 2002, attributed to toxic pollution in its habitat.
  • Passenger pigeon – Once the most common bird in the world, and is high on the list for restoration.

Expert Q+A with Dr. Michael Mahony, Lazarus Project and Newcastle University frog specialist

Metro: How close are you to making this happen?

Mahony: It’s a physical barrier not a genetic one, there’s no mismatch between the species. It’s just to do with the cell capacities — we’ll get there.

Will it be a hybrid with the host frog?

The nucleus cells all come from the extinct species so we would expect it to be exactly the same.

Could you do this on a grander scale?

Once we overcome this barrier there is unlimited capacity – we could do 1,000. In principle you can do it with any species if you have the DNA.

How significant is this for the history of cloning?

The cross-species part is unique for dead cells — we think it’s a very significant contribution.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Dogs are capable of feeling jealousy - U.S.…

By Curtis Skinner(Reuters) - Dogs are a man's best friend, and research released on Wednesday says canines want to keep it that way.Dogs are capable…

Local

G train riders brace for five-week shutdown

G train service will be suspended between Brooklyn and Queens between Friday, July 25, and Tuesday, Sept. 2.

International

Peaches Geldof's death was drugs-related, coroner rules

LONDON (Reuters) - The death of Peaches Geldof, the daughter of musician and Band Aid founder Bob Geldof, was drugs-related, a coroner ruled on Wednesday.The…

Local

Family, supporters gather in Brooklyn for Eric Garner…

Family members gathered on Wednesday for the funeral of Eric Garner, who died shortly after police put him in a banned chokehold as they arrested him.

Going Out

5 must-try dishes at Edible Manhattan's Good Beer

Rooting out the exotic amid the New York City bar scene is noble quest. But if you’d like to have it all come to you,…

Books

Art imitates life (almost) in David Shapiro's new…

David Shapiro talks about his book, "You're Not Much Use To Anyone."

Movies

Dakota Fanning's indie growing pains on 'Very Good…

Dakota Fanning on her latest "Very Good Girls."

Entertainment

Britney Spears launches new lingerie line and fans…

Women everywhere can say that they are not that innocent when Britney Spears launches her new lingerie and loungewear line. “Every woman should feel confident…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

MLB

Brandon McCarthy finds his calling on Twitter

Yankees starter Brandon McCarthy joined Twitter three year ago for the same reason many people do: to get news quickly.

Sports

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Fantasy football: Johnny Manziel could give your running…

Fantasy football: Johnny Manziel could give your running game a boost

Food

Recharge with a post-workout smoothie from Nicky Hilton

Some people can roll out of bed right as their alarm goes off. And that alarm isn’t set for 20 minutes before they have to…

Education

Colleges are increasingly embracing the concept of gender-neutral…

  Northwestern University recently made headlines after announcing that it would be installing two gender-neutral bathrooms in the university's student center. “These are two gender-open…

Career

How to prepare to interview for your dream…

    Congratulations! You landed a job interview at your dream company! A lot of hard work has gone into determining which companies to apply…

Style

The shirtdress is a summer must-have

  We love throwing on our boyfriend’s shirt and a pair of jeans (no matter how much he grumbles that it’s his turn to wear the…