Most of us know that, realistically, Jurassic Park is not possible. Dinosaur DNA breaks down much too quickly to simply extract and re-implant. In other words, we are not going to be able to make a dinosaur from dinosaur fossils.
However, did you know that birds are dinosaurs? Scientists have even recently classified birds as non-avian dinosaurs, which means, we don’t have to make a dinosaur: we already have them!
The chicken is a dinosaur. Most of us might jokingly agree with that claim at suppertime (like little velociraptors!), but a chicken can’t be a dinosaur, right? Wrong. You can’t argue that a chicken is not a dinosaur because, as paleontologist Jack Horner says with a smile, “We are the classifiers, and we classified it that way!”
Through a process known as atavism activation, scientists can turn on ancestral characteristics of animals. If you’re a parent, you may know that, occasionally, children are born with tails (immediately surgically removed), or that snakes are occasionally born with legs. Those are re-activated ancestral characteristics or atavisms.
A scientist from the University of Wisconsin recently managed to “turn on” an atavism of chickens: teeth. Meanwhile, Horner is currently working on activating the dinosaur hand (which has evolved over time into a wing) and the dinosaur tail.
Learn more about how scientists are building a “dinosaur” from a chicken.