I finally saw Jurassic World last night and I have to admit that, despite my reservations about the film, it turned out to be incredibly entertaining. In fact I would go as far as saying that it is easily the best sequel to Jurassic Park.
Like all the other films in the franchise, Jurassic World had some incredibly tense moments featuring some rather terrifying dinos. Of course the old staples like the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Velociraptor make their return, but there are also a couple of newcomers that add even more terror, such as the Mosasaurus and the hybrid, Indominus Rex. As with every other Jurassic Park film I take great comfort in the fact that all of this is purely science fiction. There is no way scientists could extract the DNA required to bring dinosaurs back to life, right?
Scientists are making some pretty incredible advancements in understanding how dinosaurs evolved by looking at their closest descendant.
No, not him...
...that's the guy we're looking for!
That's right, the modern chicken is one of the closest extant relatives to the dinosaurs. As such, their DNA still carries dormant parts of DNA from their fearsome ancestors. It turns out, those genes can, and have, been turned on.
Two scientists, Bhart-Anjan Bhullar of Yale and Arhat Abzhanov of Cambridge, recently published an article in the journal Evolution which detailed an experiment in which they managed to "turn-off" the genes responsible for giving chickens their beaks. When they did this, they noticed that the mouths of chicken embryos mouths were reverting back to their ancestral state. In other other words, the chickens were developing dino-snouts.
Sadly, the scientists were not allowed to let the embryos hatch due to ethical reasons. They firmly believe, however that the embryos would have been fine had they been allowed to hatch. It's a bummer we can't see what these modified animals would have looked like had they fully developed, but it's still exciting.
Even more exciting dino-chickens, is the fact that scientists have begun to discover bits and pieces of dinosaur DNA. In 2003 a team of paleontologists accidentally discovered dino-DNA when a Tyrannosaurus fossil was accidentally dropped and broken. The fossil housed dinosaur blood vessels with tiny bits of cells left over. Of course there wasn't enough DNA present to actually be able to clone a dinosaur, but it proved that we can find dino-DNA.
If scientists were able to gather enough DNA, any gaps left in the code, may be able to be filled with chicken DNA. In other words, bringing dinosaurs may not only be possible, it might even be able to be done in our lifetimes!