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Dino Chicken

April 19, 2016

Scientists switch off genes in chickens to learn about dinosaurs.



Dawn of the dino-chicken. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Chickens and other birds are descended from dinosaurs. So a Science Update fan wrote to ask if scientists could genetically reverse-engineer a chicken back into a dinosaur. Yale biologist Bhart-Anjan Bhullar isn’t creating a “Tyranochicken rex”, but he and his colleagues have switched off genes in a developing chicken that cause beaks to develop.

BHART-ANJAN BHULLAR (Yale University):

And when we did that, in a couple of different ways, indeed those chickens that we were affecting did transform back into forms that looked sort of like they had the skeleton of a snout that dinosaurs had.


The work helps scientists understand how small genetic changes that occur early in a developing embryo can cascade into much larger changes in the fully developed animal—relevant to understanding everything from the process of evolution to human development. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.