Why Scientists on Two Continents Are Growing Dinosaur Parts on Chickens

Schulterblatt Brachiosaurus brancai, Naturkundemuseum Berlin
Schulterblatt Brachiosaurus brancai, Naturkundemuseum Berlin

In Jurassic Park, dinosaurs were brought back to life after scientists grabbed their DNA from a bug encased in amber. Not a bad idea, but in real life, 66-million-year-old DNA would be way too degraded to be of much use, says Hans Larsson, a paleontologist at McGill University. “Maybe there is a way, but we haven’t found it yet.”


Larsson and a few other scientists are trying a different approach to bringing back the dinosaur: resurrecting the long-extinct animal’s traits in a living ancestor, the chicken. It’s an idea that’s been popularized by paleontologist Jack Horner (the real-life inspiration for Alan Grant in Jurassic Park), who frequently talks about his wish to make a “Chickenosaurus.” We might just be getting closer. In a new experiment, scientists in Chile say they’ve managed to grow dinosaur-like legs on a chicken.

Just about everybody, scientists included, has fantasized about bringing the dinosaurs back

Bird embryos start out early in their development looking more like dinosaurs, with a fibula bone in the leg that reaches down to the ankle, and matches the tibia. In grown-up birds, it’s splinter-like and shorter than the tibia.

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