The idea of saving for a rainy day originated with farm hands whose work depended on the weather. Conservationists are thinking similarly about climate change and freezing the cells of threatened animals as a sort of insurance policy.
One problem is that the cells of amphibians—among the animals most endangered by a warming world—have seemed almost impossible to preserve. That may change.
The population of the mountain yellow-legged frog, which lives in Southern California, has dwindled to a mere 180. Drought, fire, pathogenic fungi and introduced predators have put it in immediate danger of extinction. One female, living in a captive breeding facility at San Diego Zoo, had a genetic mutation that made it difficult to feed. Rather than watch it suffer, researchers decided to put it down and see if it was possible to collect and preserve its valuable ovary stem cells.
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