REAL LIFE JURASSIC PARK: Scientists Grow Actual Dinosaur Legs on a Chicken

We all remember the story of Jurassic Park. Who wouldn’t want dinosaurs to be brought back to life? What could possibly go wrong?

(Besides the whole, you know, dinosaurs escaping and killing everyone thing.)

As it turns out, scientists are a lot closer than you might think to reintroducing dinosaurs to our modern landscape.

How?

With the chicken! As it turns out, modern-day birds are actually considered to be “living dinosaurs.” In fact, chickens are the closest living relative of Tyrannosaurus rex.

Since dinosaurs like the T. rex are no longer roaming the planet, scientists have taken to experimenting on chickens in order to understand more about the gigantic creatures who used to call this planet home.

Recently, scientists have begun studying the differences between chicken legs and dinosaur legs. They realized that one big difference was found in one of the leg bones of these creatures — specifically the fibula.

In a dinosaur leg, the fibula grows long enough to reach the ankle. However, modern bird fibulae do not reach all the way down to the ankle, and instead begin to splinter out as they grow. This was because the ankle bone (called the calcaneum) keeps them from growing any longer.

So, scientists suppressed the activity of a specific gene known as IHH in chicken embryos, which in turn made another gene related to bone growth go crazy. As a result, the fibulae in the embryos grew all the way to their ankle bones — just like the bones of dinosaurs!

Unfortunately, these embryos were not allowed to hatch.

This isn’t the first time scientists have tried to re-engineer chickens to be more like their dino descendants.

In 2015, scientists focused not on chickens’ leg bones but on their feet. They succeeded in getting chickens to grow feet that were more dinosaur-like.

Scientists used a similar technique to create a more snout-like beak for chickens they were experimenting upon. Above, you can see a standard chicken beak, the modified form that resulted from the experimentation and the snout of an alligator (which is more similar to the snouts dinosaurs would have had).

Not all of the experimentation was quite so invasive. In 2014, researchers covered chickens’ tails with weighted prosthetics in order to make them walk the way that dinosaurs walked. The prosthetic tails dramatically affected the chickens’ gait, just like a dinosaur’s tail would have.

You can watch a video of a chicken “doing the dinosaur” here.

Although most of the experiments have been done on chickens, we wonder whether someday scientists will begin experimenting on dinosaurs’ other descendants — crocodiles. Could dinosaurs as large as these intimidating beasts be in our future?

Regardless, we hope the scientists of today and of the future are asking the most important questions. Just because we can experiment and begin bringing dinosaurs back to life…should we?

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