News & Current Affairs
The end of extinction? Scientists are close to 'cloning' an Australian frog that no longer exists - and there are plans to resurrect more dead species
An effort is underway in Australia to resurrect the southern gastric-brooding frog (pictured), which swallowed fertilised eggs and gave birth orally, before the last known female died in captivity in 1983. Scientists had been fascinated by the creatures but before they could study them in detail, the frogs died out
Scientists around the world are working to resurrect extinct animals from the long-lost woolly mammoth to an Australian frog that gives birth to its young via its mouth.
Researchers in Australia have made the first steps towards bringing the frog, which was certified extinct in 1983, back to life, but the Lazarus Project - a 'de-extinction initiative' - is hopeful that many other species can be re-introduced to be studied by scientists.
The process of de-extinction is more complex than cloning living animals, but a group of scientists believe humans have the ability and obligation to repair the damage they have done to the planet, which has led to countless types of animals dying out.
An effort is underway in Australia to resurrect the southern gastric-brooding frog, which swallowed fertilised eggs and gave birth orally, before the last known female died in captivity in 1983.
Scientists had been fascinated by the creatures, which seemed to disappear from the forests of Queensland every year and were thought to be hibernating, but before they could study them in detail, the frogs died out, M.R. O'Connor said in an article for Salon.com.
Luckily,samples of the frogs had been frozen and scientists are now using a cloning technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer to try and resurrect them.
It is not just Australian scientists who are pinning their hopes on de-extinction techniques. Four years ago researchers in Spain managed to produce a baby Pyrenean Ibex (like the one pictured) - extinct since 2000 - born of a domestic goat, but unfortunately the animal died soon after birth
He said he is confident any problems are technological and not biological. It is not just Australian scientists who are pinning their hopes on de-extinction techniques. Four years ago researchers in Spain managed to produce a baby Pyrenean Ibex born of a domestic goat but unfortunately the animal died soon after birth. The species has been extinct since 2000.
Scientists at the University of California are sequencing the genome of the passenger pigeon, which died out in 1914, with other groups setting their sites on doing similar work on the extinct Californian monk seal, Carolina parakeet and Tasmanian tiger.
But perhaps the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in Korea has embarked on the ambitious and high profile de-extinction project as it is working to reintroduce the woolly mammoth.
However, opinion is divided as to whether such science is responsible. Scientists in favour of the practice believe it could un-do human wrongs against the planet.
Scientists are sequencing the genome of the passenger pigeon (pictured), which died out in 1914, and others are planning similar work on the extinct Tasmanian tiger. Environmentalist Stuart Brand believes humans have the ability and the moral obligation, to repair any damage they have caused to the planet
Environmentalist Stuart Brand, who is co-founder of the Revive and Restore Foundation (another de-extinction project) told Salon: 'Humans have made a huge hole in nature, we have the ability, maybe the moral obligation, to repair that damage.'
However, other scientists think advances in the field could actually damage current conservation efforts and could potentially make more animals extinct.
A number of researchers attending a summit at Stanford University to debate the ethics of de-extinction were reportedly concerned the ability to litterally put extinct species on ice, could become standard pracitice instead of trying to protect current animals at risk of extinction living in the wild.
Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, reportedly said that she believes politicians would take advantage of de-extinction technology to undermine species conservation.
Professor Ronald Sandler from Northwestern University said de-extinction is not guaranteed to preserve a species or solve the problem of its habitat being damaged by humans.
He warned that the southern gastric-brooding frog could be resurrected and reintroduced only to find that the forest streams it needs to stay alive, have run dry.
The Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in Korea has embarked on the ambitious de-extinction project of reintroducing the woolly mammoth to Earth but there are ethical concerns about re-introducing an animal into an alien environment
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