Paleontologist attempting to turn chickens into dinosaurs

No matter how many mosquitoes trapped in amber you find, you're not going to get any dinosaur DNA out of them, Jurassic Park or no Jurassic Park. Luckily, you don't really need dinosaur DNA to make a dinosaur; you can just take a chicken and devolve it by 100 million years or so, giving it a tail, pointy teeth, and yes, even large talons.

You may remember Jack Horner from such paleontological exploits as finding the first evidence of social behavior in dinosaurs and discovering the first fossilized dinosaur embryos. Like any good paleontologist, Horner is looking for more than just bones, and when it turned out that finding DNA in fossilized dinosaurs probably wasn't going to happen, he started looking for other ways to make the childhood fantasy of nearly ever single kid to life.

As it turns out, the way to do this is not to try to build a dinosaur from scratch, but instead to take some of their closest living relatives and tweak their genes to bring out some of those dinosaur-y traits. And those closest living relatives would, of course, be chickens. Birds (and crocodiles) are the last living members of the Archosauria, a group which includes all of the extinct dinosaurs. As such, locked up in the DNA of birds are all kinds of dinosaur traits, and many of these traits manifest themselves as birds develop in the womb.

At different stages in chicken embryo development, you can see things like long dinosaury tails and hands instead of wings, but these features disappear before the chicken hatches. What scientists are trying to do now is to engineer a chicken without the genes that causes the dinosaur features to vanish, in the hopes that they'll be able to catch a chicken that looks sort of like Archaeopteryx. This may all sound a little crazy, but they've already been able to create a chicken with teeth using genetic regression, and in case you needed a reminder, birds don't have teeth, but dinosaurs do. It's the first step, man. Dino-chickens are on the way.

Below, watch Jack Horner give a fascinating TED Talk on this very subject.


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