Recently, a group of researchers created a chicken embryo that later began growing dinosaur feet by the use of genetic manipulation.
This might sound like a crazy idea, or even like a really bad joke towards the world of genetics, but, it actually it helped to study the evolutionary link between birds and theropod dinosaurs, according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Scientists recently realized that not all dinosaurs died 65 million years ago. Deep research into fossils has revealed that not all dinosaurs died after the crash of a meteorite. Some of them survived and transformed into birds.
Avian dinosaurs like Archaeopteryx had tube-shaped fibula bones that reached the ankle, alongside a tibia of the same length. A later group of avian dinosaurs, the Pygostylians, had shorter and sharper fibula bones. Modern birds still show signs of this growth, but their fibula is shorter and thinner. They never grow as far as the ankle.
Scientists from University of Chile scientists are the masterminds behind the genetic puzzle
A team of researchers led by Joao Botelho at the University of Chile created this embryo by manipulating the genes of regular chickens. The subjects began to grow dinosaur-like fibulas on their lower legs.
The researchers showed their results to the media in the journal Evolution last week. Alexander Vargas, one of the six researchers said that by inhibiting early maturation of a leg of the chicken embryo, the leg reverts to the shape that dinosaurs’ legs had, the result? A chicken with dinosaur legs.
The theropod kind of dinosaurs began as carnivores but then involved to eat plants and insects. The birds that we see outside, they evolved from small theropod dinosaurs in the Jurassic period, around 145 million years ago.
It won’t be the first and the last time chickens with dinosaur traits are made
Over the course of the study the team manipulated the Indian hedgehog homolog gene, which is found in every animal including humans. The aim was to find out when birds still had a dinosaur-like fibula bone, and research showed that it grew when they delayed early development.
“Experimental downregulation of IHH signalling at a post morphogenetic stage led to a tibia and fibula of equal length,” the team writes. “The fibula is longer than in controls and fused to the fibulare, whereas the tibia is shorter and bent.”
Dr Vargas says that the research improves our knowledge of the evolutionary link between birds and dinosaurs, and highlights the genetic mutations involved in evolution. The work also confirmed that characteristics from the evolutionary past can be made to regrow by intervening in early maturation.
The dino-chickens were not allowed to hatch, but that wasn’t the point of the research. The aim was to improve our knowledge of the biological processes involved in evolution. While the study is certainly pretty cool, it’s not the first time that scientists have recreated dinosaur traits in chickens.
In 2015, the same team of researchers made dinosaur feet grow on chickens, and a U.S. team created chicken embryos with dinosaur-like beaks.
It’s been an exciting few weeks for dinosaur fans, with the discovery of a tyrannosaurus fossil in Uzbekistan that fills in a significant gap in our evolutionary knowledge. Our understanding of dinosaurs continues to improve thanks to scientists from around the world.
Source: Value Walk