(UR) Chile — A team of researchers in Chile have recently announced that they reversed evolution on a molecular scale in order to better understand ancient avian ancestry — so they produced chickens which grew “dinosaur legs.”
The team was led by researcher Joâo Botelho from the University of Chile, who has been studying the similarities between birds and dinosaurs.
The team manipulated a gene called Indian Hedgehog (IHH) and implanted it into chickens. The chickens ended up growing legs that were identical to a dinosaur’s while still in the egg.
“Experimental downregulation of IHH signalling at a postmorphogenetic stage led to a tibia and fibula of equal length. The fibula is longer than in controls and fused to the fibulare, whereas the tibia is shorter and bent,” the report said.
Their studies were published in the journal Evolution.
In a press release after the publishing, the team said that “Unlike other animals, the calcaneum in bird embryos presses against the lower end of the fibula. They are so close, they have even been mistaken for a single element by some researchers. Botelho proposes that at this stage, the lower end of the fibula receives signals more like those at the bone shaft. In normal development, the calcaneum then becomes detached from the fibula. However, its distal end has already become committed to shaft-like development, and matures early. In the chickens with experimentally dinosaur-like lower legs, the calcaneum was attached to the fibula. Botelho also confirmed the calcaneum strongly expresses PthrP, a gene that allows growth at the ends of bones.”
Sadly, the chickens with dinosaur legs did not survive to actually hatch, but the researchers said they were able to get enough information from watching them grow inside the egg.
“The experiments are focused on single traits to test specific hypotheses. Not only do we know a great deal about bird development, but also about the dinosaur-bird transition, which is well-documented by the fossil record. This leads naturally to hypotheses on the evolution of development, that can be explored in the lab,” researcher Alexander Vargas said.
This is actually not the first time that a team has attempted to bring dinosaurs back to life in the lab.
Paleontologist Dr. Jack Horner predicted in a recent interview that scientists will have the ability to genetically engineer living dinosaurs within five years. Horner was actually the real-life inspiration for the Jurassic Park movie series who advised Stephen Spielberg during filming.
Horner believes dinosaurs could be created by genetically engineering animals that are alive on earth today, meaning that actual dinosaur DNA would not be required for the project.
“Of course, birds are dinosaurs, so we just need to fix them so they look a little more like a dinosaur. Dinosaurs had long tails, arms, and hands – and through evolution they’ve lost their tails, and their arms and hands have turned into wings. Additionally, their whole snout has changed from the velociraptor-look to the bird-like beak morphology,” Horner said in a recent interview with People.
Horner seems excited about the possibility of dinosaurs roaming the earth, but many people are concerned about the possible dangers. Even in the Jurassic Park films that Horner inspired, humans were unable to control the dinosaurs and they became an incredible danger, killing many people. This is a very real possibility if these scientists choose to play with nature and create dinosaurs.
This article (Thanks to Science, a Chicken Recently Grew ‘Dinosaur Legs’) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author Neal Cassady and UndergroundReporter.org. Image credit: FunkMonk