Scientists have known for years that a few tweaks to chicken DNA could yield a few atavistic traits—namely, bringing out more dinosaur-like traits buried in the bird. It's been done at least once with a beak turned into a snout. Now, researchers say they've turned a chicken's legs into raptor-ish legs like those of their ancient relatives.
João Francisco Botelho, a researcher at the University of Chile, created the evolutionary throwback by inhibiting the IHH gene in the chicken. This resulted in the fibula reconnecting to the ankle, a trait that was lost in the transition from ancient dinosaurs to their modern avian relatives.
The results, published in , mark the second time Botelho has tweaked bird DNA to create more dinosaur-like traits. The first, published in , reconfigured the toes in birds away from a perched toe and into a more flat-footed configuration. Like previous experiments, the embryos were destroyed before they could mature into a hatched, terrifying chickenosaur re-enacting a very small version of Jurassic Park.