Jurassic World set box-office records when it hit theaters last year. One of the biggest stars in the film was Indominous rex, the fictitious chicken-based dinosaur that was created in a lab. Now, one scientist has come forward to let us all know that the idea of a dino-chicken is not entirely far-fetched. Fossilized dinosaur DNA that is still viable is yet to be discovered, but secrets to a Jurassic past could be hidden in chicken.
“Chickens and all birds are carrying much bigger chunks of dinosaur DNA than we are ever likely to find in the fossil record,” James Horner, the inspiration for the original Jurassic Park’s Alan Grant, commented.
In the 1980s, Horner changed the paleontological world with his work on Maiasaura fossils, publishing a book that detailed their communal behaviors. He is also famous for his theory that Tyrannosaurus rex was a scavenger, not a hunter. More recently, Horner has turned his attention to experimenting with bird DNA alterations—but it’s not even close to what you’ve seen in theaters.
“DNA is an enormous molecule, made from trillions of pieces, held together in a cell nucleus by chemistry,” Horner noted. “As soon as the cell dies, that chemistry shuts down, and this molecule, which is very fragile, starts to come apart…We don’t think that there would be anything left after millions of years.”
So what is Horner’s true goal?
“It’s all about form,” he said. “Size is something we can work on another time. But lots of dinosaurs were little. Even making a poodle-size T. rex will not be easy.”
Still, he’s working on it.
“The proof of concept has been accomplished,” Horner said. “We can get teeth into a bird and just recently a team from Yale and Harvard have managed to retro-engineer [a bird’s] beak back into a dinosaur-looking mouth. So we basically have the tail to reinstate, and to transform the wings back into an arm and hand.”
So how far off are we from a little pet T. rex?
“We already make transgenic animals,” Horner commented. “We make glowfish, you can go get one at the pet store. That’s a transgenic animal—a zebra fish that has had glow genes from jellyfish implanted into the embryo during development that makes it glow in the dark. We have that proof of concept, so we know we can make transgenic animals.”
But there is more to gain here than outrageous pets. The research could have tremendous application in medical fields, from making better food to addressing things like spinal disorders.
Source: Daily Mail