Lost Limbs Foundation

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Project Lazarus

De-extinction, gastric brooding frogs and Project Lazarus

The southern gastric brooding frog was discovered in 1972 and properly described in 1981. Intense interest followed and in the same year it had disappeared in the wild, shortly followed by the last captive specimen's death in 1983. A second species, the northern gastric brooding frog, was discovered before disappearing too. They were known to science for just over a decade before their extinction.

The interest was primarily due to the frog's unusual reproductive method. The female swallows her eggs and turns her stomach into a womb, vomiting up her young when they are grown. The loss of her stomach means she doesn't eat while they develop, and her new womb bloats so much it causes her lungs to collapse (meaning she has to breathe through her skin). To date, it's the only organism known to completely change one organ into another.
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De-extinction, gastric brooding frogs and Project Lazarus

The southern gastric brooding frog was discovered in 1972 and properly described in 1981. Intense interest followed and in the same year it had disappeared in the wild, shortly followed by the last captive specimen's death in 1983. A second species, the northern gastric brooding frog, was discovered before disappearing too. They were known to science for just over a decade before their extinction.

The interest was primarily due to the frog's unusual reproductive method. The female swallows her eggs and turns her stomach into a womb, vomiting up her young when they are grown. The loss of her stomach means she doesn't eat while they develop, and her new womb bloats so much it causes her lungs to collapse (meaning she has to breathe through her skin). To date, it's the only organism known to completely change one organ into another.

Now, thanks to some frozen specimens, the gastric brooding frog may not be gone forever. In what they call Project Lazarus, an international team is inserting southern gastric frog nuclei into the eggs of a close relative (the great barred frog) and have actually got some of these cells to divide. 

However, once the embryos reach a point in development called gastrulation (when the single-layered blastula becomes the three-layered gastrula) they stop. It's far from a tadpole, but it is nonetheless the beginnings of a gastric brooding frog.

Team leader Michael Archer believes this problem is a matter of technique. "We’re increasingly confident that the hurdles ahead are technological and not biological and that we will succeed," he insists. "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.”

Photo credit: ANT Photo Library/Science Source

http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/03/15/resurrecting-the-extinct-frog-with-a-stomach-for-a-womb/

http://www.nature.com/news/will-we-kill-off-today-s-animals-if-we-revive-extinct-ones-1.12645

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/03/pictures/130316-gastric-brooding-frog-animals-weird-science-extinction-tedx/

http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112804658/lazarus-project-gastric-brooding-frog-extinction-cloning-genome-031613/