TASMANIAN tigers are a step closer to returning from extinction thanks to an extinct frog that gave birth through its mouth, says a leading researcher.
Professor Mike Archer, a professor of palaeobiology at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said yesterday he expected to see tigers roaming Tasmanian bush within his lifetime, after being brought back to life using gene technology.
He said an important step was taken in the past few weeks when a research team he was working with managed to create embryos of an unusual frog known as the gastric brooding frog, which became extinct in Australia during the 1980s. The frog incubated its young in its stomach and gave birth through its mouth.
He said the embryos containing the DNA of the extinct frog were created by using tissue from a frog that had been frozen before the species became extinct.
Researchers injected DNA from the frozen frog into eggs from living frogs of a similar species and produced cloned embryos that lasted for a few days.
Professor Archer began a project in 2000, which was shelved in 2003, to bring the Tasmanian tiger back to life and said the brooding frog success showed extinct animals could be brought back to life.
He said he hoped an actual brooding frog would be created within a year, once the reasons for the embryos dying were discovered and corrected.
Professor Archer said that success could then be applied to the Tasmanian tiger, with much of the work of identifying all the necessary genes already done through his earlier work.
He said the tiger DNA presented bigger challenges than the frog material, as the tiger DNA was from a specimen stored in alcohol for more than 100 years, so was not in top condition.
"The connection with the thylacine is that it is the same basic principle (as the frog)," Professor Archer said.
"In demonstrating that we can do this with another animal, there will be less scepticism and more encouragement to continue to try and do this with the thylacine.
"(Researchers would) put the thylacine DNA that has been reconstructed into the egg cell of a Tasmanian devil, now that would be the way this would almost certainly work."