Jurassic Chicken: The Resurrection of Dinosaurs

Silky Bantam - adorned with the feathers bird anscestors probably origionally sported.
Silky Bantam - adorned with the feathers bird anscestors probably origionally sported.
Featherless chicken - note the similiarities it has with reptiles and dinosuars.
Featherless chicken - note the similiarities it has with reptiles and dinosuars.
A velociraptor skull with backward pointing teeth.
A velociraptor skull with backward pointing teeth.
The foot all elusive dinosaur claw and foot, yet to reproduced.
The foot all elusive dinosaur claw and foot, yet to reproduced.
An artist's rendition of a feathered velociraptor.
An artist's rendition of a feathered velociraptor.
Could a chicken dinosaur hybrid look like this? Maybe.
Could a chicken dinosaur hybrid look like this? Maybe.

When I was five years old I announced to the world that I was going to be a paleontologist when I grew up and at eleven I read Jurassic Park with a childish wonder. I knew it was fiction, that dinosaurs could not be engineered back into existence but what a tantalizing fantasy it was!

Jurassic Park did a strange thing, it invigorated the public's imagination and spurned an interest in paleontology that fostered the largest boom of amateur and professional paleontologists in history. Sadly I was unable to be one of these but this didn't stop me from watching the field progress from a distance.

The discoveries in the past ten years have been astounding. Fossils of dinosaurs and large animals have been found with preserved internal organs, skin, and feathers. Even more shocking is the fact that genuine dinosaur proteins were found in several fossils that were so intact that paleontologists could determine the sex of the animal by determining if these proteins were the same as the ones produced by birds currently producing eggs. This was never thought possible in the past.

So what does this have to do with engineering a real living breathing animal? No, no one is trying to clone dinosaurs or start a dinosaur genome but there is an interesting phenomenon going on behind the doors of some laboratories where paleontology is meeting biology.

Thomas Henry Huxley was the first one to suggest that birds and certain predator dinosaurs had many similar characteristics in their bone structure and therefore theorized that birds descended from these dinosaurs. He was a famous anatomist in his day and is known now mostly for being "Darwin's bulldog," a fierce defender of the new Theory of Evolution. Until the 1990s almost all paleontologists considered his theories incorrect and obsolete. That all changed when fossils started to be found with feather impressions. These weren't flight feathers but they were still feathers much like the feathers seen today on Silky Bantam chickens.

These discoveries made scientists take a closer look at feathers and the animals that sported them. It was learned that feathers and reptilian scales are essentially made out of the same proteins. All sorts of theories surged as to why this may be.

A small handful of individuals didn't feel like spending their time theorizing about the past, they wanted to tinker with the future. Learning that these feathers were the same as scales they devised a way to alter chicken and crocodile embryos so that the crocodiles would have feathers and the chickens would have scales. That was amusing enough but a scaly chicken is not a dinosaur.

Next this same handful of scientists started looking at the beaks on chicken embryos. They were the first to notice that prior to hatching chicks have little nubs on their beaks which looked startlingly like sharp backward facing teeth suspiciously like those found on the same dinosaurs Huxley pointed out as being their ancestors.

Finally the chickens' tails were studied. It was discovered that chicken embryos have full lizard-like tails for part of their development with the extra vertebrae absorbing before the chick hatches. This was an easy gene to track down and turn off, making these chickens keep their lizard-like tails. The researchers say they still haven't figured out how to recreate dinosaur feet, claws, and arms, in chickens but they're going to stay diligent.

With all these discoveries it is now possible to hatch an animal that resembles a cross between a chicken and a velociraptor. In fact chickens were only picked because of their commonality as laboratory research animals (and the Silky Bantam's natural feathers) but in the future these techniques could be used on ostriches and other large flightless birds. These animals would be even more dinosaur-like and more dangerous to work around.

So will man ever reverse engineer an animal that's been extinct for 65 million years? It seems quite possible...

Recently I was lucky enough to stumble upon this wonderful speech by one of the paleontologists I liked to listen to as a child when my passion for paleontology was at its strongest. Its well worth a listen and ads much to what I've already stated here in my own article.

Or perhaps you'd like to read Theophanes' adventures in raising chicken on her blog Tales from the Birdello. Sorry, no dinosaur babies yet.

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Comments 20 comments

The How To Hub profile image

The How To Hub 8 years ago from Australia

Loved the title, so I had to check this out & it's interesting stuff. You found some great photos to go with this hub.


Rex20100 8 years ago

I love the idea of there be dinosaur-like creatures in the next 50 to 100 years. My favorite dinosaur movie was the Lost World because if dinosaurs are already living we won't need to clone them some would already be still here in the most remote of regions. Although I would still love to go to a real Jurassic Park were there are dinosaur-like beasts. The animals would probably be 90 or 96% dinosaur and if there dangerous birds like ostriches and cassowaries the could become far more dangerous.


monitor profile image

monitor 8 years ago from The world.

A very interesting read with great accompanying photos, Theophanes. Jurassic Park was definitely an exciting place to spark your interest in paleontology. New discoveries in the world of dinosaurs is always great for the imagination.

Your fan.

Mon.


Emily404 profile image

Emily404 8 years ago from Washington

Nice Hub- well written.


the talker 7 years ago

well, you all are talking about the chicken morphing and its all very interesting but

like everyone else, i would like to see some pictures of atleast test dumies that half way worked if not, lets say you let them live and grow alittle bit.

{picture the progress} thanks! keep up the goodwork and -update!


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California

I had no idea they were doing this with chickens. Very interesting!


Haas 6 years ago

Pseudoscience


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America

Some scientists believe some dinosaurs simply got smaller rahter than went extinct. Alton Brown has asked on his show that if DNA experiments be done and ckickens are really related to reptiles, then make chickens dinosaur-size with big wings for eating. lol


mrpopo profile image

mrpopo 6 years ago from Canada

Nice Hub man, very interesting stuff.


Jesus 6 years ago

Love all creatures, and they will love ya


Amez profile image

Amez 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

Well Im sure Chickens might link back to the Dinosaurs, but as for them slowly changing back to their anesters I'd like to see that.


LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 6 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

I enjoyed this Hub. Thanks for sharing. In Geology we learned about Historical Geology, part of that showed, according to Paleo records that giant reptiles grew feathers and got smaller. It made me take a second look at my parrot, and indeed, there is a strong resemblance!


Jack 5 years ago

Great Hub. But there is a lot of kiddish people out there like the guy name gay what an immature baby. Keep up the good work. :)


yourFriend 5 years ago

Excuse me but why are people writing garbage on this hub. Yes jack everybody is being childish but what can you do. All i can say is they am being little children and cant understand good information.Yes like the person you sid that gay or whatever he doesn't even know where he is.


jamiesweeney profile image

jamiesweeney 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

This is funny, i never heard this before.


naqvi 4 years ago

yes its gud realy wat u wrote.u had a close interest in palaentology n dinosaurs.i am an engineer by profession yet i hav also been a student of biology in high school.its a bit difficult task 2 bring back the creatures that walked the earth 65 million years ago.bt still therez a glazing hope 2 make new ones of their kind bt they ll be genetically engnrd one.scientists are lukin for some actual properly preserved dna and homeotic genes which they are vry close to or who knwz some 1 is just abt to succeed!


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

Dinosaurs are so fascinating, so I loved this hub. And the naked chicken sure looks like a dinosaur, but is a very unattractive chicken. Even if it is pink. Really? Pink? That is so weird. The study of paleontology has come a long way since I was a girl playing with my little plastic dinosaurs.


Theophanes profile image

Theophanes 4 years ago from New England Author

LoL yes, the chicken is pink. I think the only chickens with a different color skin would be silkies. They have black skin, that's why Westerners don't tend to eat them! (Curiously enough not only their skin is black but so is their meat and bones. Weird stuff.) And yes, paleontology has come so far in the past few years. There seems to be a bit of a boom as more people, particularly women, are employed in the field as well as combining it with other fields of work.


Thermal Glen 2 years ago

Chickens contain all the genetic material that could recreate a dinosaur. The secret is in the way certain genes and gene groups are expressed epigenetically. Chicks growing inside the egg go through a phase in which they grow teeth which get reabsorbed before hatching.


Matthew 17 months ago

I'm not sure if we're in the same neighborhood, but we are in the same city. Any chcane of emailing me that address too? Looks like we could take care of your overabundance in no time at all!

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