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    Jurassic Chicken

    Jurassic Coop: Scientists Grow Chickens With Legs of a Dinosaur

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    Scientists at the Universidad de Chile have modified chicken embryos so that so that they grow dinosaur legs.

    Scientists at the Universidad de Chile have experimented with the molecular development of chicken embryos to produce chickens with longer fibula, a trait which was present in their ancestors, the dinosaurs.

    "Any one that has eaten roasted chicken can account for the presence in the drumstick (lower leg) of a long, spine-like bone," the researchers wrote in a press release.

    "This is actually the fibula, one of the two long bones of the lower leg (the outer one). In dinosaurs, which are the ancestors of birds, this bone is tube-shaped and reaches all the way down to the ankle."

    The scientists explained that they wanted to study the mechanisms involved in the evolution of chicken legs from dinosaur legs. 

    They found that when a maturation gene in chickens called 'Indian Hedgehog' was inhibited, it resulted in chickens that kept a tubular fibula as long as the tibia and connected to the ankle, just like a dinosaur.

    In addition to identifying and inhibiting the associated gene, the scientists also observed that the other bone of the lower leg, the tibia, was significantly shorter, a development which suggests that a dinosaur-like fibula connected to the ankle stops the tibia from growing as it would normally.

    The fibula bone (orange) in Dinosaurs is as long as the tibia and reaches down to the ankle (upper left), whereas in adult birds, it is splinter-like and shorter than the tibia, missing its lower end (upper right). However, bird embryos actually start out like dinosaurs, and then develop their adult anatomy (centre). The transformation can be stopped by experimental inhibition of Indian Hedgehog (IHH), a bone maturation gene, which leads to a bird with a dinosaur-like fibula (lower right)
    The fibula bone (orange) in Dinosaurs is as long as the tibia and reaches down to the ankle (upper left), whereas in adult birds, it is splinter-like and shorter than the tibia, missing its lower end (upper right). However, bird embryos actually start out like dinosaurs, and then develop their adult anatomy (centre). The transformation can be stopped by experimental inhibition of Indian Hedgehog (IHH), a bone maturation gene, which leads to a bird with a dinosaur-like fibula (lower right)

    This observation is consistent with birds' evolution in the fossil record, which shows that the earliest forms to evolve reduced fibulas were toothed birds from the early cretaceous age. These lived alongside dinosaurs and had splinter-like fibulas that did not connect to the ankle, but were almost as long as the tibia. 

    The scientists, who published their findings last week in the journal Evolution, said that studies like theirs are not aimed at producing dinosaurs for commercial or non-scientific purposes, as happened in the film Jurassic Park.

    "The experiments are focused on single traits, to test specific hypotheses," said Vargas

    "Not only do we know a great deal about bird development, but also about the dinosaur-bird transition, which is well-documented by the fossil record. This leads naturally to hypotheses on the evolution of development that can be explored in the lab," he explained.

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    Tags:
    leg, science, evolution, chickens, dinosaur
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