It sounds like something straight out of Jurassic Park, but a team of researchers really have successfully grown “dinosaur legs” onto chicken embryos.
The scientists figured out a way to grow chicken embryos with dino legs as part of “reverse evolution” research to map out how birds evolved from dinosaurs.
Amazingly, this isn’t the first time scientists have experimented with dino-chicken hybrids.
Last year, a study discovered that “tweaking” chickens during embryonic development could grow a dinosaur-like snout. Two years ago, another study demonstrated how strategically-placed weights could make a chicken walk like a T-Rex.
This time researchers wanted uncover the secrets behind the development of leg bones.
Modern-day birds are the descendants of a large group of dinosaurs called the Coelurosauria. Archaeopteryx, the most famous example of the transition between the most ancient Coelurosauria and today’s birds, had a fibula — a tube-shaped bone that reached all the way down to the ankle.
Nowadays, bird’s fibulae don’t reach the ankle — they become more splinter-like as they grow. Perplexed, a team of researchers from the University of Chile began their journey to uncover the reason for the mysterious change.
Journal of Evolution
Looking into the genetics of the chicken itself, the scientists discovered that, by inhibiting the “expression” of a gene called Indian Hedgehog (IHH), the long, dinosaur-like fibulae continued to grow.
Surprisingly, this peculiarly-named gene turned out to be the difference between chicken and dino legs.
Sadly, the dinosaur-like chickens weren’t allowed to hatch. But perhaps that’s a good thing — after all, we wouldn’t want a repeat of this.