Scientist Gives Chickens a Dinosaur Beak

posted: 05/13/15
by: Danny Clemens
Corey Ford/thinkstock

A Yale researcher has successfully spawned chicken embryos with a snout reminiscent of early dinosaurs.

Paleontologist Bhart-Anjan S. Bhullar's work is detailed in a study published in the latest edition of the journal Evolution. He hopes that his work will help the scientific community better understand the evolutionary transition.

"Our goal here was to understand the molecular underpinnings of an important evolutionary transition, not to create a 'dino-chicken' simply for the sake of it," Bhullar said in a news release.

Bhullar's team analyzed both fossils and living animals to determine exactly how the transition from dinosaur to bird occurred. By examining the genetic makeup of crocodiles, turtles and lizards, with whom the chickens share a common ancestor, researchers were then able to identify the genetic code responsible for beak development.

Next, researchers used inhibitors to prevent the expression of that gene, and were able to "induce the ancestral molecular activity and the ancestral anatomy". Both the beak structure and the palatine bone in the mouth reverted to pre-evolutionary anatomy.

"This was unexpected and demonstrates the way in which a single, simple developmental mechanism can have wide-ranging and unexpected effects," added Bhullar.


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