Larsson is experimenting with chicken embryos to create the creature Horner describes: a “chickenosaurus,” they call it. If he succeeds, Larsson will have made an animal with clawed hands, teeth, a long, dinosaurian tail and ancestral plumage, one that shares characteristics with “the dinosaur we know that’s closest to birds, little raptors like the velociraptor,” Horner says.
The chickenosaurus will be a conversation piece, he says, sparking a public debate about evolution by winding its tape backwards for all to see. “Let’s put it this way,” Horner says. “You can’t make a dinosaur out of a chicken, if evolution doesn’t work.”
Physorg reports that Hans Larsson, the Canada Research Chair in Macro Evolution at Montreal’s McGill University, said he aims to develop dinosaur traits that disappeared millions of years ago in birds.
Larsson believes by flipping certain genetic levers during a chicken embryo’s development, he can reproduce the dinosaur anatomy, he told AFP in an interview.
The dinosaur called an Oviraptor is also called the “scary chicken”. It was about 6 feet tall.
This is not like Jurassic Park where prehistoric DNA is revived, but rather like a new genetic sculpture using manipulation or DNA to create something that looks like something else. It is like taking a new car and making it look like a Model T. A replica car is created.
“We should be able to regenerate or essentially make the genetic program mimic the way it was at say, 150 million years ago, and grow a longer tail, change its plumage to something a little bit more primitive, have three-clawed fingers, some teeth,” he said.
The idea for the project came about over a discussion with internationally renowned American paleontologist Jack Horner. Among other things, Horner served as technical adviser for the Jurassic Park films.
The two were talking about how to illustrate evolution. They decided that altering the development of chicken embryos could be “a very public, visual way of doing that,” Larsson said.
“The fundamental questions are animal development. We’re trying to find out what genes are turning on and off, how cells are moving within the embryo.”
The study will focus on chicken eggs because birds are direct descendants of dinosaurs, Larsson said.
The project doesn’t face ethical hurdles because none of the embryos would be hatched yet, Larsson said. The research is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Research Chairs program and National Geographic.