Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Building a dinosaur from a chicken

One of my favourite subjects while studying science in Trinity was Palaeontology. In fact I studied this far too much to the detriment of other subjects which I sometimes failed in exams. I really liked the efforts of scientists to piece together a whole species of dinosaur from just a few fragments of fossilized bone. We also had a fantastic lecturer, Dr Frank Jeal, who kept us enthralled about Palaeontology. While a life as a paleontologist appealed to me greatly - it was never to be.

One of the world's leading paleontologists is Jack Horner who has made many discoveries in Montana and has written many books about dinosaurs (he even worked as technical advisor on the Jurassic Park movies). In a recent TED Talk, Horner talks about "building a dinosaur from a chicken" (a chicken is a bird, and birds are descended from dinosaurs). In a very entertaining discussion, he outlines how this might be possible if a few genes that cause some changes in chicken embryos are stopped from working - we might get a more dinosaur like chicken. Interesting, if unbelievable stuff - but it does show that science outside the movies is actually concerning itself in turning fiction into fact. Many people dislike the notion of scientists "messing" with genetic code and trying to clone new species - but I think it's cool. Push the bounds of possibility I say - if you think you can breed a dinosaur-like chicken, then go for it. Who knows what possible benefits may arise. Check out the video - it's worth watching.

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