Historical story

Chicken with dinosaur walk wins Ig Nobel Prize

Five scientists made a whiptail from clay and sticks and glued it to a chicken's butt. This chicken walked like a dinosaur and the researchers won an Ig Nobel Prize with it, the cheerful science prize for research that first makes you laugh and then think.

It is difficult for researchers to determine the behavior and appearance of extinct dinosaurs. Fortunately for science, there are still descendants of the T-Rex and other two-legged dinosaurs:birds. Scientists from Chile decided to give chickens a swing tail so that their bones grew like a dinosaur's.

A dinosaur walk

Two-legged dinosaurs had such a swinging tail, so that their center of gravity was more back than that of chickens. As a result, they probably also walked differently, but how exactly is not clear from the bones alone. The whip tail caused the chicken's bones to grow differently than normal and the angle between the femur and tibia increased. The center of gravity of the chicken was therefore, just like with dinosaurs, more to the rear. The knees were less flexible and the chickens walked more from the hip instead of the knee.

The scientists admit that their chickens are not perfect dinosaurs. For example, they have wings instead of small front legs. Still, they think the evolution of dinosaur build and locomotion can be better understood by manipulating living birds. With this research it was probably made that the tail of dinosaurs caused a different way of walking, namely more from the hips.

Above you see the normal chicken and below the dino chicken. The dino chicken runs 'more from the hips'. The dino chicken also bends a little more. Source:Grossi et al, PLOS 2014.

Other dinosaur chickens

The chicken is often the loser as laboratory animal. All birds are descended from the dinosaur, but the chicken is genetically most similar to a dinosaur. Earlier this year, a chicken embryo was genetically manipulated to understand the origin of the beak. With the genetic cessation of beak growth, the embryo developed a snout. To the researchers' surprise, they had created a chicken with the snout of a Velociraptor. "That was unexpected and shows that a single, simple mechanism can have large and unexpected effects," said Bhart-Anjan Bhullar, one of the researchers, in an interview with Yale News. .

For Jack Horner, a chicken with a Velociraptor snout is not enough:he wants to make a 'real' dinosaur out of a chicken. Horner was involved as a scientific advisor on the movie Jurassic Park and ever since, he has been determined to bring an extinct dinosaur back to life. He and others just couldn't isolate DNA from a dinosaur skeleton. In 2009 he therefore proposed a different approach. According to Horner, switching off genetic mechanisms makes it possible to make a 'real' dinosaur. Dinosaurs have evolved into modern-day birds and new genes have emerged. The old genes are probably not gone. They have just been put on hold. Horner wants to turn off the new genes and turn the old genes back on. He calls the animal that is then created the Chickenosaurus . It is not yet known what the animal looks like and when it will come to that.