So here’s the plan:
- Be Canadian.
- Be a scientist.
- Get a chicken embryo.
- Turn it into a dinosaur.
Here is the lede from PhysOrg (8/25):
“After years spent hunting for the buried remains of prehistoric animals, a Canadian paleontologist now plans to manipulate chicken embryos to show he can create a dinosaur.”
Read MOAR and MOAR and MOAR!
So this guy’s name is Hans Larsson. That’s his real name. No word yet on whether or not he wears all black, speaks in an Eastern European accent, and shows no human emotion – although judging from his name and what he is up to, all of these things most definitely must be absolutely true. Just look at what he looks like probably looks like I think he might look like based on a quick google images search:
My understanding of this stuff is really crude, but I’ll give it a shot. Basically what happens is that when an embryo of any species is developing, its genome starts to be regulated mostly by Hox genes. Here is a rap video about Hox genes. You may listen to the music while reading the rest of this post with my permission.
So for example, since we share a common ancestry with other apes, the capacity to grow a tail is in our genes. It’s just that for most of us, outside of places like Kentucky and India, that gene gets regulated so that we don’t actually grow a tail. At least, not usually:
But if you wanted a human to grow a tail, theoretically you could go into the genome of a developing embryo and tinker around with the Hox genes so that they don’t inhibit that particular part of our genome as it normally would. I’m sure it’s a bit more difficult than that sounds since it would need to be done at a specific developmental period and in the right way, but that’s the gist of evo-devo (evolutionary development) as I understand it.
So this Hans Larsson character is doing this with chickens now, trying to deregulate old genetic material shared with the common ancestor of chickens and dinosaurs. This kind of thing has sort of already been done specifically in the form of developing chickens with teeth. Yeah, that’s right: Chickens with fucking teeth.
Unfortunately this doesn’t mean we can create our own army of unholy chickenosauruses to wreak havoc on Ken Ham’s Creationist “Museum” or to perform some other worthy endeavor. It’s probably going to be very inexact and application-free, at least for a while now. But hang in there – with any luck, Hans and his assistant Igor Ivan Ivanovich (that is very likely his name) will soon be facepalming or shouting up to the nighttime sky something like, “Nooooes! What have I done?” as mobs of the townsfolk with torches and pitchforks scramble in a futile effort to stop the madness before THE CHICKENOSAURS SLAUGHTER US ALL AND SKULLFUCK OUR CORPSES OMG OMG WTF WTF EVERYBODY PANIC RUN FOR YOUR LIVES NOW!!!!!!!!!