Since dinosaurs like the T. rex are no longer roaming the planet, scientists have taken to experimenting on chickens in order to understand more about the gigantic creatures who used to call this planet home.
Recently, scientists have begun studying the differences between chicken legs and dinosaur legs. They realized that one big difference was found in one of the leg bones of these creatures ”” specifically the fibula.
In a dinosaur leg, the fibula grows long enough to reach the ankle. However, modern bird fibulae do not reach all the way down to the ankle, and instead begin to splinter out as they grow. This was because the ankle bone (called the calcaneum) keeps them from growing any longer.
So, scientists suppressed the activity of a specific gene known as IHH in chicken embryos, which in turn made another gene related to bone growth go crazy. As a result, the fibulae in the embryos grew all the way to their ankle bones ”” just like the bones of dinosaurs!
Unfortunately, these embryos were not allowed to hatch.
Scientists used a similar technique to create a more snout-like beak for chickens they were experimenting upon. Above, you can see a standard chicken beak, the modified form that resulted from the experimentation and the snout of an alligator (which is more similar to the snouts dinosaurs would have had).
Not all of the experimentation was quite so invasive. In 2014, researchers covered chickens' tails with weighted prosthetics in order to make them walk the way that dinosaurs walked. The prosthetic tails dramatically affected the chickens' gait, just like a dinosaur's tail would have.
You can watch a video of a chicken "doing the dinosaur" here.
Although most of the experiments have been done on chickens, we wonder whether someday scientists will begin experimenting on dinosaurs' other descendants ”” crocodiles. Could dinosaurs as large as these intimidating beasts be in our future?