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Dino Descendant

May 15, 2007

A listener asks: What are the closest living relatives of dinosaurs?


A modern-day dinosaur. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Listener Calvin of Gainsville, Florida, emailed to ask: What are the closest living relatives to dinosaurs? Well, your best guess might be crocodiles or lizards, but hot-off-the-press research shows that it may be chickens. Scientists have long thought that birds descend from dinos, but only last month were they able to analyze collagen from a 68-million-year-old T-rex fossil. Team member Lewis Cantley of Beth Israel Deaconess and Harvard says it most closely matched collagen from the poultry. But he’s careful not to count this chicken before it hatches.

LEWIS CANTLEY (Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center):
You know, there may be another modern species that hasn’t yet been sequenced that may end up giving us more matches, but with what we have, the bird is the winner.

If you have a science question, don’t be chicken. Call us at 1-800-why-isit. If we use it on the air, you’ll win a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.