A team of Australian scientists has managed to grow embryos containing the revived DNA of the extinct gastric-brooding frog, a species that incubated the prejuvenile stages of their offspring in the stomach of the mother.
According to conservation biologist Michael Mahony, this represents a crucial first step in an attempt to bring a species back to life.
The team – part of the aptly named Lazarus project – inserted the dead genetic material of the extinct amphibian into the donor eggs of another species of living frog. The eggs continued to grow into three-day-old embryos, which scientists refer to as blastulas.
“This is the first time this technique has been achieved for an extinct species,” Mahony told the Sydney Morning Herald.
The project to resurrect the gastric-brooding frog has apparently been ongoing for five years, in an initiative led by University of NSW palaeontologist Mike Archer.
“In the beginning, the single cell eggs just sat there. But then, all of a sudden, one of the cells divided, and then it divided again, and again,” said Archer.
“There were a lot of high fives around the laboratory at that point.”
And while the embryos had yet to develop into tadpoles, genetic tests confirmed the dividing cells contained the DNA of the extinct frog.
“We do expect to get this guy hopping again,” Archer added.