The chickenosaurus is a theory supported by the well-known paleontologist Jack Horner. He has argued that dinosaurs were not cold-blooded reptiles but rather warm-blooded birds. Interestingly, he also argues that chickens have the potential to become dinosaurs again by manipulating their genome at the embryonic level.
Many lines of evidence suggest that birds descended from dinosaurs. It includes the presence of non-avian dinosaur DNA in modern birds. Many genes present in avian dinosaurs continue to function in modern chickens. These genes give scientists a potential route to reverse evolution by actively interfering with development at the gene level.
One particularly intriguing study looked at dinosaur fossils and found collagen proteins like those found in modern animals. Another recent study found heme, a stable component of hemoglobin, in blood vessels from a 68 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex femur. It shows that dinosaur cells contain similar components to those in modern animals.
Another group discovered beta keratin present in the skin of a 68 million-year-old dinosaur – this is also a common protein for modern animals. The chickenosaurus theory believes that one day we may be able to use chickens to bring back the dinosaurs because of their genetic similarities. How similar are they? Let’s take a look.
Silly as it sounds, some scientists have proposed that the dinosaurs never actually died off – they just evolved into modern birds. And not even all modern birds, but chickens and ostriches. These scientists think that the last primitive dinosaurs, more like birds than lizards, continued to evolve until they resembled the ordinary chicken.
There is nothing very scientific about this idea, though. Mainstream science doesn’t accept the theory, and it has several problems. For example, most modern birds evolved after the dinosaurs were extinct, so how could they be genetically similar? Also, many non-avian dinosaurs (like the T-Rex) are not similar to chickens or other living avians.
Scientists must still do a lot of research to see if turning a reptile into a bird is possible. It is interesting to consider how birds evolved in the past. Weird as it sounds, if a dinosaur and a chicken had a child, scientists would call it a Chickenosaurus.
Paleontologist Jack Horner
Paleontologist Jack Horner has been finding and studying dinosaur bones for decades. He’s discovered some of the most exciting dinosaurs in history. It includes the first known bird-like dinosaur—which everyone now calls Archaeopteryx.
Horner isn’t just a paleontologist (someone who studies ancient life); he is also a geneticist. In 2013, Jack published a book called How to Build a Dinosaur, in which he suggests that we might be able to create a real-life dinosaur by reversing evolution by using birds as a starting point. If you’re wondering what that means, don’t worry; we’ll explain it in the sections below.
Paleontologists have learned a lot about dinosaurs from fossils. However, scientists are learning even more from cutting-edge DNA research on living birds, including chickens. While you probably know that birds evolved from dinosaurs, you might not know how much they still have in common with their ancient ancestors.
Scientists have learned that modern birds are essentially still dinosaurs—it’s just that they’re intelligent dinosaurs. A 2012 study showed that chickens and other birds have similar mental abilities to modern reptiles and dinosaurs.
Dinosaur DNA in Birds
According to a study published in the journal Current Biology, chickens have more in common with dinosaurs than we previously thought. A team of scientists found that embryonic chicken hands share similarities with their ancient ancestors.
The researchers examined chicken embryos to see how their hands (wings) developed over time and how the bones varied between species. The study uncovered two essential factors that help determine the size of bird hands.
The first factor is genetics; it determines whether or not the cells at an embryo’s tips will become finger bones. And the second factor is a growth factor protein called FGF that controls the length of each digit. Genes control which cells will grow into fingers, and FGF regulates how long they’ll be.
The next significant step in science won’t be to create the next drug. It will be to create new life forms. Scientists looked into cloning the DNA of extinct species and have not been successful. The chickens have nearly all of the same genes as a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
A particular gene determines which parts of the chicken will be legs and which will be wings. Scientists do not yet know how to use these genes to make dinosaurs from birds, but there are many exciting possibilities for why birds have similarities with dinosaurs.
The chicken embryo could help scientists better understand the process of evolution and provide clues about how new species appear. The early developmental stages of a bird can look incredibly similar to the embryos of alligators. Scientists think that dinosaur embryos might have looked pretty similar to modern birds.
“Jurassic Park” and other movies have made us wonder whether it’s possible to bring back dinosaurs. While this process was essentially a work of fiction, one team of scientists has figured out how to give chickens some extra reptilian features by adding a dinosaur-like snout to their faces.
These researchers from the University of Chile used genetic engineering to insert proteins from two different types of reptiles into chicken embryos. Researchers inserted proteins into chicken embryos to change how their faces developed.
Chickens are the descendants of two different types of dinosaurs: paravians and coelurosaurs. Paravians were similar to modern birds. Coelurosaurs had duck-like beaks, like Velociraptors, instead of beaks like modern birds. By altering chicken embryos with these two kinds of proteins, researchers could make them develop with features found in both paravians and coelurosaurs or just paravians.
Scientists were able to grow scales on chicken embryos. This development leads them to believe that they may be able to replace feathers with scales one day. From studying fossils of early dinosaurs, they know that feathers and scales evolved from a single type of structure.
They inserted genes from developing chickens into fertilized eggs to determine how their experiment would turn out. They used the genetic codes for making scaly skin. Because of their study, scientists determined how scales and feathers evolved. They have taken that knowledge and applied it to chicken embryos.
They got the chicken embryo to develop with scaly skin rather than feathers. Chicken eggs are easy to transport and hatch, making them ideal for this experiment.
This experiment could also help us understand evolution and why birds have feathers rather than scales. Chicken embryos provide an exciting window into the past. Through this project, scientists can better understand what dinosaurs might have looked like.
Soft Tissue in Dinosaurs
Currently, scientists have found soft tissue in multiple dinosaur specimens. Think about that, soft tissue in dinosaurs. Not only that, but scientists have also been able to extract DNA from several of the dinosaur bones containing this soft tissue.
Scientists also discovered a few pieces of actual plastic in these bones. The plastic may be there because contamination exposure was unavoidable while dug up, which is possible, especially with older finds. This exposure to plastics may have also contaminated the DNA, but there is no confirmation yet.
No matter how you look at it, finding soft tissue in dinosaurs was a big deal and still is today. These discoveries are fascinating for the scientific community and could lead to discoveries soon.
Preserved Blood Vessels and Cells
In 2012, a team of paleontologists led by Mary Schweitzer made a stunning discovery. They found preserved blood vessels and cells inside the fossilized bone of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Scientists have not seen soft tissue in dinosaurs before because it usually breaks down during fossilization. Schweitzer theorized that the fossils preserved the blood vessels and cells because fossils became mineralized.
This discovery is a game-changer for science. It means that there is the possibility of using soft tissue samples to bring back some dinosaurs.
Collagen in Dinosaurs
Collagen is a protein found in many animals, including dinosaurs. Scientists have extracted collagen from fossilized dinosaur bones, which has allowed them to determine certain things about the dinosaurs’ physical characteristics. For example, they now know that dinosaurs were scaly rather than feathered.
Modern birds and reptiles (think crocodiles) were closely related to dinosaurs. Scientists can compare their collagen patterns to extinct dinosaurs to understand what dinosaur collagen looks like under a microscope. In other words, chickens might have the same collagen characteristics as dinosaurs because they’re both reptiles.
There are still some significant differences between birds and dinosaurs, though. What’s more modern birds don’t have teeth, so it would be hard to clone one using chicken DNA. Dinosaur and bird fossils tend to be more fragile than mammalian fossils. It’s unlikely that we will ever find enough dinosaur DNA to recreate a living creature.
Heme in Dinosaurs
Are chickens the key to bringing back dinosaurs? It depends on how you look at it: it can be yes or no. Scientists have discovered how to use chicken DNA to produce Heme, a chemical fundamental to the growth of dinosaur bones. They call this process “The Chickenosaurus” effect by American biologist Alex Alviso, who specializes in mammalian reproduction.
While the Heme grown using this process is identical to that found in dinosaurs, some scientists have claimed it is impossible to inject it into fossils. The fossilized dinosaur DNA can no longer grow correctly due to missing sections and chromosomal mutations. That isn’t very reassuring, but at least we now have a source of Heme for research purposes.
Beta-keratin in Dinosaurs
To bring back dinosaurs, we’d need dinosaur DNA. We can’t use dinosaur DNA because it’s all millions of years old and no longer exists. Some chicken (and crocodile) DNA is very similar to dinosaur DNA. It applies to many species in the same family.
Suppose scientists can take a chicken and remove the beta-keratin gene from its genome. In that case, they will have isolated the gene responsible for making dinosaurs so different from their modern relatives. Why stop there? Why not add more genes from chickens and other animals as well?
The name of the protein is beta-keratin. Beta-keratin is a substance found in proto-feathers. Beta-keratin is also made by the same cells that produce scales, hair, and feathers in all animals with skin. Reptiles and birds have very similar versions of the beta-keratin gene.
Hair and claw are different from each other despite consisting of the same molecule. Beta-keratin was probably a common feature in ancient creatures with scales and feathers. Chickens helped us learn more about dinosaurs.
There are many reasons why bringing back dinosaurs might be impossible, but one reason that isn’t impossible is Beta-keratin.
The Chickenosaurus Theory is Not Likely
The chicken-dinosaur theory is not very likely. Since dinosaurs’ closest living relatives are crocodiles, scientists would need to find a way to modify crocodiles to make them more like chickens genetically.
Genetic modification of animals and cloning them are two techniques studied by scientists, but the results definitely won’t be ready for a few years. A team of scientists has identified about 25 genes or so that control the embryo development of chickens and suppress dinosaur traits. These genes control how the head develops, how many toes form on each foot, and whether scales form.
Scientists could learn more about humans by studying these genes. The human genome has similar regulatory genes found in birds and fish that control our skeleton development. Scientists may be able to use this knowledge to help children with bone malformations or injuries heal more quickly. It’s possible that dinosaur cloning will never be successful, but researchers can learn a lot by trying it out.
If this sounds a little crazy to you, take a step back from your disbelief. I’m sure that if you think about it hard enough, you’ll start to see where the pieces of this puzzle fit together. Though it might not be as simple as throwing some genes together in a Petri dish, scientists are getting close to being able to resurrect dinosaurs. And until someone pulls the plug on us, we’re going to keep asking: can chickens bring back dinosaurs?