Friday, February 20, 2009

Poultrysaurus


Who needs Jurassic Park? According to Jack Horner, we can make a dinosaur—or something like a dinosaur—by retro-engineering the DNA in a chicken. The blueprint is already sitting there; it’s just a matter of controlling gene expression. Jack’s book “How to Build a Dinosaur” comes out next month.

How Stuff Works video, link.

16 comments:

plue said...

Awesome !dinotopia soon will be real!

Drew said...

I remember seeing a special on that, and at least for therapods, it could work.

Sure, we can get it to look like some off-color dromeosaurid or something similar, but I wonder how it would act?

And I wonder if it'd be possible to use the same method to try and engineer something close to a triceratops, or even a hadrosaur...what would even be the base for that?

Drew said...

Ah, I also remember Jack Horner said within 50 years or sooner we can have our first reverse-engineered dinosaur. How crazy would that be?

jeff f said...

There was a really good show on Nova recently about a 350-million-year-old fossil of a four-winged, pigeon-sized dinosaur which was fascinating.

They built a scale model and tested it a wind tunnel at MIT in an effort to explain why it had four wings.

It seems this creature, (Microraptor) was a glider.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/microraptor/

Sean Craven said...

The film critic John Brosnan wrote a novel using this idea. It was called Carnosaur, and while more crudely-written than Jurassic Park it covered a lot of the same territory and had stronger science and a more biting political subtext. If you like gory horror it's a lot of fun.

It was released in 1984, six years before the Crichton novel.

(There was a movie with the same title; amusing in a Roger Corman way but nowhere near as good as the book.)

r8r said...

oh, great, that's all we need: killer chickens.

Jen Z said...

Hmm... I don't mean to go Ian Malcolm on you all, but didn't evolution happen for a reason? I'd hate to think of the consequences of 'turning on' random genes in animals... likely creating side effects in the animals, and thinking of anything -even a mere chicken- having to suffer as some science project, is quite horrible. If you want to see a real life triceratops, check out the chamaeleons in your local reptile house, versions of hadrosaurs can also be found there or in many species of bird. I'd like to dream too, but I don't think humans would do dinosaurs any good in this day and age.
It's just a relief that this guy's theory of 'just gotta find the right gene and switch it on' seems to reference the distant future... or so I hope...

Drew said...

We've been experimenting with stuff like this for years, though. And a lot of the genes that would need to be turned on in chickens already are on at certain points in life or have been tweaked.

An example are the chickens that were bred to have feathered feet. On any other breed of chicken, their feet are covered in scales, but clearly they were bred to eventually have those scales give way to feathers. A fair amount of people assume if we can pull it one way through slow selective breeding, we can take it the other way by merely flicking the right genes on and off.

Some species of birds while in embryo form have rudimentary teeth that disappear, and most species have bony tails that as the fetus develops, slowly shrinks to pudgy size that most birds have these days. If I recall correctly, there's even some baby birds that when born have vestigal claws on their wings that slowly atrophy as the bird grows older.

It's not so much turning on random genes, but rather mapping the right genes that correlate with these developments, and coaxing them to stay on for longer than they were intended.

Daroo said...

Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny?

Sean Craven said...

Hey, Jen Z!

Evolution didn't happen for a reason -- it's a process, an elaborate chemical reaction. No purpose and no goal. It's just something that happens.

Of course, that's no excuse for bad taste in biological engineering.

Patrick Waugh said...

A chickensaurus? I doubt it could write in sandbox or debate linear/cyclical time theories, but it would be delicious! Who wants a leg?

Kelly Sullivan said...

My sister and I watched something similar on the Discovery Channel. At one point when the scientist tampered with a bird's DNA so it would have scales and claws, my sister exclaimed, "Have we learned NOTHING from Jurassic Park?!"

jeff f said...

First off let's be realistic. The odds of this being able to happen are so slim. Prehistoric DNA is not good for much is it. It's pretty hard to get good workable DNA from mummy let alone petrified bones.

One thing I have read recently is that Raptors in Jurassic Park should have had feathers on their bodies, that they think even T-Rex's had feathered bodies, which makes sense since they would be able to be active longer due to insulation properties of feathers as well as being replant to water.

jeff f said...

Roosters are pretty aggressive,making them more aggressive through mixing their DNA with therapods would be scary if it worked.

HAve you ever dealt with an angry rooster, they can be very nasty and those claws hurt.

Drew said...

The idea presented though isn't mixing prehistoric DNA with modern DNA of a bird. It's taking the DNA of say, a chicken, and modifying its genetic structure without adding anything new to create a dinosaur-like creature.

James Gurney said...

Check out Drew's wonderful alien designs at his blog "Drawing Madness,"
http://andrewsides.blogspot.com/