Perhaps some of the most incredible examples of amphibian reproduction are the gastric brooding frogs, two species from Australia in which the female raises her young in her stomach. During her period of “pregnancy”, her stomach stops producing acid and provides nutrients for the tadpoles to feed on. Then, when the tadpoles are metamorphosed, they climb out of her mouth and her stomach is once again, just a stomach. Unfortunately, not long after these fascinating gastric brooding frogs were discovered, both species went extinct.
Now, researchers from the University of New South Wales are attempting to resurrect a gastric-brooding frog – by cloning it! A frozen southern gastric-brooding frog (Rheobatrachus silus) is being used as the DNA donor while the barred frog, a fairly close relative, provides the eggs. Thus far they have only been able to produce an embryo and not a fully formed tadpole, but it may be only a matter of time before we are able to bring the gastric brooding frogs back.
This is be one of the first examples of cloning used for conservation by preserving previously extinct biodiversity. My only argument against cloning extinct species is that, if these newly resurrected species are put back into the wild as species of special concern, valuable time and money will be spent on conserving them that could be put toward other animals near the brink of extinction. That being said, I am very eager to find out the results of this experiment. Maybe one day we could even bring back the Golden Toad (Bufo periglenes) of Costa Rica!