Monday, August 17, 2009

Your parrot isn't related to dinosaurs, your parrot might BE a dinosaur...

I love this stuff:
Some of the world's leading paleontologists are attempting to recreate a dinosaur -- or something a lot like a dinosaur -- by starting with a chicken embryo and working backward to engineer a "chickenosaurus" or "dinochicken," project leader Jack Horner told Discovery News.

Such "reverse evolution" has been successfully performed in mice and flies, but those studies focused on re-introducing just a few bygone traits. The dinochicken project instead has the goal of bringing back multiple dinosaur characteristics, such as a tail, teeth and forearms, by changing the levels of regulatory proteins that have evolved to suppress these characteristics in birds.

"Birds are dinosaurs, so technically we're making a dinosaur out of a dinosaur," said Horner, a professor of paleontology at Montana State University and curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies.

"The only reason we're using chickens, instead of some other bird, is that the chicken genome has been mapped, and chickens have already been exhaustively studied," added Horner.

He and colleague James Gorman, deputy science editor of The New York Times, have just co-authored a new book, "How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever," which describes the project in detail.

Although the plan seems more like a page out of the fictional "Jurassic Park," Horner assured it is real and is already underway.

"A number of people in a number of different places are moving forward with the project slowly and carefully," he said.

Read the entire article here: 'Dinochicken' Scheme Puts Evolution in Reverse

Here's paleontologist Jack Horner on the scientific underpinnings of the Dinosaur Retro-Engineering Project: Dinos: The Futurist: Retro-Engineering Dinos. Fun Stuff.

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