Scientists Bring Extinct Mouth-Brooding Frog Back to Life After 30 Years

by , 03/18/13

gastric-brooding-frog, lazarus project, university of newcastle, extinct, species, prof mike archer, dna

Most of us probably thought the first species that would be brought back from extinction would be large, scaly, and wreak havoc on a theme park. While not nearly as intimidating, scientists have revived one of the most interesting amphibians the world has ever seen. Using preserved DNA, researchers at the University of Newcastle in Australia have resurrected the gastric-brooding frog (Rheobatrachus silus). The frog was native to small portions of Queensland, and was pushed out of existence by habitat loss, parasites, fungus and invasive weeds back in the 1980’s. Using cloning methods, the animal, which can amazingly incubate eggs in its stomach and give birth through its mouth, may soon be hopping back into the world.

gastric-brooding-frog, lazarus project, university of newcastle, extinct, species, prof mike archer, dna

Through the ‘Lazarus Project’, scientists at the University of Newcastle have effectively brought the gastric-brooding frog back from the dead. A process called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) was applied to a batch of eggs that had been kept in a freezer over the last 40 years. Biologists deactivated the eggs from the distantly related great-barred frog, and swapped the nuclei with that of the gastric-brooding frog. Some of the resulting eggs began to spontaneously divide, growing into the embryo stage. While none of the embryos survived past a few days, genetic tests confirm that the little balls of life were in fact full of the genetic material from the extinct species.

“We’re increasingly confident that the hurdles ahead are technological and not biological and that we will succeed. Importantly, we’ve demonstrated already the great promise this technology has as a conservation tool when hundreds of the world’s amphibian species are in catastrophic decline.” said leader of the Project team, Professor Mike Archer of the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

The results of the Lazarus Project have yet to be published, but Dr. Archer spoke about his work at the March 15 TEDx DeExtinction event in Washington DC hosted by the Long Now Foundation and the National Geographic Society. While there are some who see this development as a landmark achievement for preservation, others debate the ethical implications of “playing God” with the fate of earth’s organisms. As the technology advances, other species such as the wooly mammoth or Tasmanian tiger may be next on the list for a second chance at life. Is this a step towards undoing damage caused by humans, or science gone awry?

+ University of Newcastle

Via PopSci

Images via the Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts and Bob Beale

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  1. Eric Nicolas Schneider September 28, 2014 at 3:59 am

    @lemado: take photos and send to with reference to this article

  2. Eric Nicolas Schneider September 28, 2014 at 3:58 am

    :-/ You show us a pic of a live frog and it’s ONLY BEEN EMBRYOS surviving a few days.

  3. lemado February 21, 2014 at 4:48 am

    is only in australia? i have seen something very similar to this living underneath my outside sink and there are about ten of them. is there any way i could find out more information on them??

  4. GreatEmerald March 22, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Lazarus Project? Dr. Archer? It’s almost as if they are trying to add Mass Effect 2 references on purpose!

  5. ronwagn March 21, 2013 at 2:03 pm


  6. rpvitiello March 19, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    A vast majority of species that have gone extinct, have done so because of humans. I don’t see this as playing god at all, I see it as undoing the damage we did. IF humans and life as we know it are to survive, we DO need to have a means of preserving and re-seeding life. Eventually this tech needs to be developed, so what better time than the present!

  7. Michael Irvine March 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Why are we not playing god when human activities kill these species off but we are playing god when we bring them back?

    Just asking.

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