Turning Chickens Into Dinosaurs… What Could Go Wrong?

06.10.11 8 years ago 4 Comments

Paleontologist Jack Horner’s wanted a pet dinosaur for years. But despite what Jurassic Park would have you think, we’re never going to find dinosaur DNA to clone one in a fossilized mosquito. Which is why he and other scientists are looking to make dinosaurs from the most common dinosaur descendants around… chickens.

Yep, what with their delicious, easy-to-eat flesh and the fact that they still exist, it’s easy to forget that today’s birds are descended from dinosaurs. (In fact, most scientists now consider present-day birds to be a subset of theropod dinosaurs, the group that includes the T-Rex.) And so, chickens have in their DNA a bunch of dormant genes for more dinosaur-esque features, including teeth, hands and tails. Most of those features actually appear while chickens are developing as embryos, only to disappear before they hatch.

Well,  Horner and other scientists are using a technique called “atavisim activision” to turn those traits back on and create what Horner has dubbed a “Chickenosaurus.”  There’s already been some success as Matthew Harris from the University of Wisconsin has used the technique to grow a chicken with teeth, as seen below.

Jack Horner did a presentation at this year’s TED talks about making his Chickenosaurus, but interestingly, couldn’t give a reason about why we’d want to make one, apart from teaching kids about evolutionary biology and the fact that it’s cool. After all, what could go wrong with taking one of the most numerous birds and giving it teeth and claws?

Hear Jack Horner’s TED talk about the future of Dino-chickens after the jump:

[TED via DVice]

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