Jurassic Park might not be as fictional as you might have believed. Scientists were able to regress the beak of a chicken to its evolutionary ancestor: The dinosaur snout.
Why was the chicken chosen for the experiment?
Because apparently the chicken is closest thing to a dinosaur we can find today.
Scientists working on this project manipulated proteins found in cells of the chicken embryo and succeeded in creating something similar to a dinosaur snout thus proving the evolution of the ferocious reptiles into unassuming and harmless poultry.
The first step in making the experiment possible was to find the genes and proteins responsible of creating and growing a beak.
By comparing the genome of the animals who had beaks against animals who lacked such a feature, they managed to find out that in bird embryos, special kinds of proteins are synthesized in a larger amount.
They then proceeded to inhibit the expression of the gene responsible for the transcription of the proteins and injected the embryos with chemical inhibitors of the proteins responsible for beak growth.
By doing so, they believed an ancestral gene, found in the genetic inheritance of the bird will be free to manifest itself and thus produce a snout like appearance of the skeleton.
However, many other researchers are not so keen on recognizing the results obtained through this experiment. They say that the evolution of the snout into a beak, happened through a difficult to chart progress and that it is difficult to figure out the whole evolutionary process by just inhibiting a gene and manipulating proteins.
They also made a valid point by saying that inhibiting genes can have toxic effects on the anatomy of the skull of the bird and that the difference in skeleton can be just the effect of the protein inhibition.
According to paleontologists, dinosaurs developed the beak very late in their evolution and say that most birds that had developed wings and feathers and that were able to fly, most likely had snouts.
Before developing a beak, it is believed that first, the ancient animals needed first to develop more face bones, 2 in fact, called premaxillae. What is sure about the evolutionary process of animals that started up as dinosaurs and ended up as chicken, is that the two premaxillae bones must have fused together when they were smaller and then, as millions of years passed, it started to elongate.
As exciting as this experiment might be, it needs to be further proven by more scientific data and only then will we be able to see the true evolutionary path from dinosaur to chicken.
Image Source: cbc
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