Scientists have known for years that a few tweaks to chicken DNA could yield a few atavistic traits—namely, bringing out more dinosaur-like traits buried in the bird. It’s been done at least once with a beak turned into a snout.
Now, researchers say they’ve turned a chicken’s legs into raptor-ish legs like those of their ancient relatives.
João Francisco Botelho, a researcher at the University of Chile, created the evolutionary throwback by inhibiting the IHH gene in the chicken. This resulted in the fibula reconnecting to the ankle, a trait that was lost in the transition from ancient dinosaurs to their modern avian relatives.
The results, published in Evolution, mark the second time Botelho has tweaked bird DNA to create more dinosaur-like traits.
The first, published in Scientific Reports, reconfigured the toes in birds away from a perched toe and into a more flat-footed configuration.
Like previous experiments, the embryos were destroyed before they could mature into a hatched, terrifying chickenosaur re-enacting a very small version of Jurassic Park.