Scientists Grow Dinosaur Legs On A Chicken

We are familiar with the theory of the Dinosaur extinction. For those who are not, here goes; some scientists believe that over 65 million years ago the earth collided with a huge asteroid. This collision which struck of the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula led to the blockade of the sun by dense dust which in turn killed off about 75% of animals and plants at that time– including dinosaurs.

A new discovery however brought about knowledge of some dinosaurs which didn’t die but evolved into the birds we know today– and chickens are one of them . They allegedly possess a genetic combination that is reminiscent of Dinosaur genes.

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Researchers led by Joâo Botelho from the University of Chile have conducted what is known as a reverse evolution experiment. Although they did not turn a chicken into a Tyrannosaurus rex or a velociraptors, they did something close. They conducted the experiment on a leg bone, called the fibula. The fibula in dinosaurs was believed to be a long bone, shaped like a tube which reached all the way to the ankle, with the tibia, another bone growing along side it. However, in modern birds the fibula is shorter than the tibia, splinter-like and no longer reaches the ankle. Although chicken embryos possess the capacity to grow the dinosaur fibula, they become shorter and thinner as they grow.

fibulae of a dinosaur, chicken embryo and adult chicken

The scientists therefore carried out a research to understand how and why the chicken’s fibulae changes as it grows. When it was understood, they tweaked the genes of the chicken so that instead of their fibula getting shorter, thinner, and developing splinter-like ends, they grew into that of a dinosaur.

The research which was published in the  Evolution journal  shows that the Chickens did not reach hatching stage, but of course the sole purpose of the study was to understand the transition the chicken legs undergoes.

One of the team members, Alexander Vargas, explained;

“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.”

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