Back in 2016, scientists grew dinosaur legs on a chicken in Chile. Current theories claim that 75% of the dinosaurs had been extinct when the giant asteroid hit our planet 65 million years ago. However, a few dinosaurs are theorized to have survived- and they evolved into modern birds.
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Chilean scientists added ancient bird legs on a chicken – a bird that is quite contemporary. The reasoning was that they wanted to see how a dinosaur evolved into a modern bird. This resulted in them manipulating the genes of an everyday chicken. The chicken then developed tubular, dinosaur-like fibulas on its lower legs.
The scientists who grew dinosaur legs on a chicken were led by Joao Francisco Botelho, and the study was to essentially investigate how birds grew into their shorter fibulas from the tubular and long ones that are seen in dinosaurs. The process was quite fascinating- for they let a gene- called the Indian Hedgehog nestle itself amongst the chickens. This led to the chickens growing the long fibulae that we usually associate with dinosaurs in their embryos. This process also displayed how the fibulae of modern chickens couldn’t reach the length of dinosaur legs. The study was published in the journal Evolution, and scientists did talk about the growth of the fibula- caused by calcaneum.
In 2016, Scientists Grew Dinosaur Legs On A Chicken To Research The Genetic Development
A press release by these scientists in 2016 described how the calcaneum present in the embryos of birds, unlike the rest of the animals, kept pressing against the fibula’s lower end. They end up pressing so close that sometimes researchers have mistaken them for a single element. This does seem quite poetic, considering how the modern-day birds are the living descendants of avian dinosaurs called the Coelurosauria- which included the Velociraptor, the Tyrannosaurus, and the Deinonychus. The most famous evolution of these avian beasts was the Archaeopteryx, which was a transition between the ancient Coelurosauria and the birds we see today. This evolution had a fibula- which was a tube-shaped bone- that went all the way to its ankle.
With evolution, the fibulae of modern birds don’t reach the ankles and have become splintery as they grow. When the Indian Hedgehog gene was inactivated, another gene called the PthrP which deals in bone growth showed major activity. This encouraged the fibulae to start growing until they reached the ankles and attached themselves to the ankle. Interestingly, there was a distinct similarity between this skeletal structure and the anatomy of the Archaeopteryx.
Unfortunately, when scientists grew dinosaur legs on a chicken, they weren’t intending for the chickens to hatch. While additional information has not been provided or surfaced since then, it does seem quite clear that no government authority would give a green signal to a bunch of scientists who have decided to reverse-evolve chicken to become buyable Deinonychus pets.
Image credit: A regular chicken embryo/not the actual image from the experiment. (Graeme Campbell/Wikimedia Commons/Public domain)