Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

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Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby AvatarIII » Thu Sep 01, 2011 3:13 pm UTC

Scientists reverse evolution with snouted chicken

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Spoiler:
Scientists reverse evolution with snouted chicken
Scientists have rewound 65 million years of evolutionary history by twerking chicken DNA to create embryos that grow alligator-like snouts rather than beaks.

By Nick Collins, Science Correspondent
7:30AM BST 18 Aug 2011
72 Comments
Chickens and other birds are thought to have descended from dinosaurs through a series of genetic changes.

But by altering the DNA of chicken embryos in the early stages of their development, scientists are able to undo the progress made by evolution and give them qualities they lost millions of years ago.

Ethical regulations prevent the eggs from being hatched but Arhat Abzhanov, an evolutionary biologist based at Harvard University in America, said he hopes to one day to complete his work by turning chickens into Maniraptora, small dinosaurs believed to have spawned 10,000 species of birds.

The ability to rewind evolution also raises the prospect of fast-forwarding the same process to create species which are designed to adapt to Earth's changing climate, and eliminating birth defects in human children, it was claimed.

Scientists believe that modern birds lost their snouts in the cretaceous period, instead developing beaks in one of a number of changes that distances them from other relatives like alligators.

But by altering parts of their DNA to resemble alligator genes before the beak began to develop, Dr Abzhanov and Harvard University graduate student Bhart-Anjan Bhullar were able to alter the development of chicken embryos so that they grew snouts instead.

The growth of embryos is governed by signalling molecules, which switch on certain genes controlling the development of limbs, organs and other body structures.

By altering the signalling patterns, the researchers prevented the embryos from developing beaks and instead caused them to grow snouts.

Disclosing the research group's preliminary results at a seminar in July, reported by the New Scientist magazine, Dr Abzhanov said: "It looks exactly like a snout looks in an alligator [at this stage]."

Jack Horner, a leading paleontologist based at Montana State University, is conducting a similar project aimed at developing a "chickenosaurus" with a tail and hands similar to those of a dinosaur.

If scientists are able to turn the process around and speed up evolution, they could create species better adapted to the changing planet.

Craig Albertson, a developmental biologist from the University of Massachusetts, has already crossed two blue fish from different populations to create red offspring – a possible evolutionary trait making it easier for males to attract females in murky, polluted water.

Understanding exactly how genetic signalling works could also help doctors prevent birth defects such as cleft palate from developing in the womb, it was claimed.

Jill Helms, a stem cell biologist based at Stanford University in California, said: "I can envision a day when we eliminate such defects in the womb."

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Steax » Thu Sep 01, 2011 3:42 pm UTC

I'm no biologist, but certainly there's a big difference between "changing if a gene is activated or not activated" and "changing an arbitrary characteristic of an organism of which we don't know the responsible gene"?

I mean, I understand how they can 'disable' the gene that causes the beaks to form. But that's no "rewinding evolution", no? It's just toggling the genes. It's not like we can recover lost genes, or magically fix/create new ones. I can't imaging "speeding up" evolution either. It makes no sense. Evolution is based on letting time act as a fitness function and determine which genes to keep. Scientists making arbitrary decisions can't replace that.

I kind of get the bit about birth defects, though. Just make sure the right genes are activated at the right time... or something.
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Sep 01, 2011 3:45 pm UTC

What's neat is it's been known for a while that a single gene in birds that remains inactive in development and life, is responsible for birds not having teeth. So, yay epigenetics!
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby gavin » Thu Sep 01, 2011 3:59 pm UTC

Science, all about coulda, not shoulda.

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Tirian » Thu Sep 01, 2011 4:06 pm UTC

My mind immediately leaped to this keen observation on the rationality of geneticists.

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Dauric » Thu Sep 01, 2011 4:24 pm UTC

... So the dinosaur apocalypse won't start at Jurassic Park, an isolated island facility(ies), but will happen at Tyson's Industrial Raptor Farm located conveniently in Rural America.

Brilliant!
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby gavin » Thu Sep 01, 2011 4:26 pm UTC

Tirian wrote:My mind immediately leaped to this keen observation on the rationality of geneticists.
Hah, perhaps the idea is making the owl stronger? Did the wizard think of that?!

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Decker » Thu Sep 01, 2011 5:22 pm UTC

I clicked the link hoping to see pictures of our new mini-raptor overlords. I was disappointed.
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Arancaytar » Thu Sep 01, 2011 5:28 pm UTC

What, like a Crocoduck?

The irony is that this particular animal actually would be a case of Intelligent Design.
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby ShootTheChicken » Thu Sep 01, 2011 5:31 pm UTC

I can feel my faith being tested.
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby mmmcannibalism » Thu Sep 01, 2011 6:22 pm UTC

I bet I know what it would taste like

Why are there ethical regulations against hatching the things?
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby nitePhyyre » Thu Sep 01, 2011 6:24 pm UTC

Jurassic Park
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Sockmonkey » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:05 pm UTC

I <3 crimes against nature and unholy abominations. :twisted:

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Zcorp » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:29 pm UTC

Can't let it hatch for ethical reasons? wtf.

At some point we have to force journalists to stop putting 'scientists create', 'scientists find cure', or 'scientists discover' etc in article titles. What defines someone as a scientists is pretty vague and scientists are not a very homogeneous group.

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby gavin » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:32 pm UTC

It may be that changing the lifeform in this way may give the creature a particularly arduous or painful life. Designing a creature that you know will feel pain because of the way you altered its natural course isn't nice (at least we seem to be pretty angry at God for it).
Last edited by gavin on Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:36 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Dauric » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:33 pm UTC

Sockmonkey wrote:I <3 crimes against nature and unholy abominations. :twisted:


Especially when they're tasty grilled with some Lemon Pepper or Old Bay.
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:40 pm UTC

gavin wrote:It may be that changing the lifeform in this way may give the creature a particularly arduous or painful life. Designing a creature that you know will feel pain because of the way you altered its natural course isn't nice (at least we seem to be pretty angry at God for it).


But if you didn't do that, the creature wouldn't exist at all. Yeah, it'd be nice if I had green eyes, blond hair, and was genetically taller, but if that happened, I wouldn't have been born; someone else would've.

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby gavin » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:41 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
gavin wrote:It may be that changing the lifeform in this way may give the creature a particularly arduous or painful life. Designing a creature that you know will feel pain because of the way you altered its natural course isn't nice (at least we seem to be pretty angry at God for it).


But if you didn't do that, the creature wouldn't exist at all. Yeah, it'd be nice if I had green eyes, blond hair, and was genetically taller, but if that happened, I wouldn't have been born; someone else would've.
It's nice that you're sentient enough to understand the concept of non-existence. I wonder how much that would help a chicken?

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby podbaydoor » Thu Sep 01, 2011 8:28 pm UTC

How is this "rewinding evolution"? Maybe the article did a poor job of communicating what the scientist was really doing, but it sounds to me like the scientists were just twerking genes to look like what they wanted. That's different from trying to find out what chicken genes looked like X number of years ago.
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby IcedT » Thu Sep 01, 2011 8:45 pm UTC

Jack Horner, a leading paleontologist based at Montana State University, is conducting a similar project aimed at developing a "chickenosaurus" with a tail and hands similar to those of a dinosaur.
Can I... can I have one?

EDIT: Also, this raises the important question of whether or not dinosaurs were delicious.

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Dauric » Thu Sep 01, 2011 8:52 pm UTC

IcedT wrote:
Jack Horner, a leading paleontologist based at Montana State University, is conducting a similar project aimed at developing a "chickenosaurus" with a tail and hands similar to those of a dinosaur.
Can I... can I have one?

EDIT: Also, this raises the important question of whether or not dinosaurs were delicious.


Probably similar to alligator meat, so a trip to bayou country would probably be illuminating. I understand that fried gator is popular, but then again in the south they bread and fry anything and everything.
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby quantumcat42 » Thu Sep 01, 2011 9:02 pm UTC

Dauric wrote:
IcedT wrote:
Jack Horner, a leading paleontologist based at Montana State University, is conducting a similar project aimed at developing a "chickenosaurus" with a tail and hands similar to those of a dinosaur.
Can I... can I have one?

EDIT: Also, this raises the important question of whether or not dinosaurs were delicious.


Probably similar to alligator meat, so a trip to bayou country would probably be illuminating.

Speaking as one who has tried gator... yes. Now can we get to the genetically engineered Steakosaurus already?

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Landsknecht » Thu Sep 01, 2011 9:09 pm UTC

I wouldn't say I'm in raptures.

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Maurog » Thu Sep 01, 2011 10:38 pm UTC

podbaydoor wrote:How is this "rewinding evolution"? Maybe the article did a poor job of communicating what the scientist was really doing, but it sounds to me like the scientists were just twerking genes to look like what they wanted. That's different from trying to find out what chicken genes looked like X number of years ago.

Nope, "twerking genes" would be something like, taking a gene sequence from alligator DNA, injecting it into a chicken zygote instead of the beak sequence, and voila, chickens with alligator noses (note: it probably wouldn't work anyway). All they actually did was find toggle switches in the chicken genes and then flip them, basically. From what I understand this is still 100% chicken DNA, just parts that are normally "off", like that teeth thing previously mentioned.
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Iulus Cofield » Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:37 pm UTC

So when are we going to reactivate the gene for human tails? I can sense a lot of money to be made in the furry demographic.

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby IcedT » Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:42 am UTC

quantumcat42 wrote:
Dauric wrote:
IcedT wrote:
Jack Horner, a leading paleontologist based at Montana State University, is conducting a similar project aimed at developing a "chickenosaurus" with a tail and hands similar to those of a dinosaur.
Can I... can I have one?

EDIT: Also, this raises the important question of whether or not dinosaurs were delicious.


Probably similar to alligator meat, so a trip to bayou country would probably be illuminating.

Speaking as one who has tried gator... yes. Now can we get to the genetically engineered Steakosaurus already?

I've had gator on several occasions too. This is Houston man, we sell alligator at the Renaissance Fair. And I'm totally on board for Steakosaurus.

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby MartianInvader » Fri Sep 02, 2011 1:21 am UTC

the article wrote:The ability to rewind evolution also raises the prospect of fast-forwarding the same process to create species which are designed to adapt to Earth's changing climate, and eliminating birth defects in human children, it was claimed.

Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Oh man, they don't even dare quote anyone as claiming that... just "it was claimed". By who? The local science fiction blogger, or the hobo outside?
Let's have a fervent argument, mostly over semantics, where we all claim the burden of proof is on the other side!

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby AvatarIII » Fri Sep 02, 2011 9:56 am UTC

podbaydoor wrote:How is this "rewinding evolution"? Maybe the article did a poor job of communicating what the scientist was really doing, but it sounds to me like the scientists were just twerking genes to look like what they wanted. That's different from trying to find out what chicken genes looked like X number of years ago.



i think what they are getting at is that they simulated atavism, which is about as close to rewinding evolution as is actually possible,

i think i read once that if a creature evolved to do something, and then evolves to do something else, but then evolved to do the original thing again, it will always evolve a new way to do it, it will never reaquire it's former ability.

for example apes lost their tails at some point, but if they ever needed something like a tail again, they wouldn't evolve tails again, they'd evolve something that does the same job.

not even sure if that's relevent i just thought it was interesting.

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby JudeMorrigan » Fri Sep 02, 2011 1:31 pm UTC

Dauric wrote:Probably similar to alligator meat, so a trip to bayou country would probably be illuminating. I understand that fried gator is popular, but then again in the south they bread and fry anything and everything.

I've had blackened gator before. It was pretty omnomnomy. So it doesn't have to be fried (not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you).

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Sockmonkey » Fri Sep 02, 2011 9:19 pm UTC

How is it with hot sauce? I love damn near anything with hot sauce.

The really interesting bit about this is how it illustrates that big changes in an organism don't require adding or deleting whole new sets of genes. Just mix and match the old ones flipping them on or off at the right time. Makes rapid evolution a whole lot simpler and easier.

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Technical Ben » Sat Sep 03, 2011 8:27 am UTC

A single gene? Are they certain?

A single part of my computer is responsible for it functioning... It's called the fuse. The fuse being disabled does not provide proof the fuse has the mechanics that produce the rest of the working mechanism. The entire instruction set for the teeth could be separate for the toggle "on/off" of that instruction set. Finding the on/off switch is not the same as finding the instructions for production. Once they find those, then I'll be interested.

[edit]
Seems most here agree. :)
Do we not have examples of animals re-activating disabled genes already?
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby userxp » Sat Sep 03, 2011 4:58 pm UTC

Science isn't about why, it's about why not! Now who wants an army of mantis men?

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Shivahn » Sat Sep 03, 2011 5:21 pm UTC

userxp wrote:Science isn't about why, it's about why not! Now who wants an army of mantis men?

No, it's about how and what!

You want why, take a philosophy class!

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Griffin » Sat Sep 03, 2011 5:51 pm UTC

I don't see any possible ethical reasons why they could not have let this hatched. It seems like we could have gotten a lot of knowledge and lucrative private enterprise ventures out of such an occurrence.
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby iChef » Sun Sep 04, 2011 5:04 am UTC

You know how much cooler cock fights would be with raptor-chickens instead of regular chickens? i also wonder if this gene would be expressed if they let the chickenosaurus hatch and then breed with a regular chicken.
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Sockmonkey » Sun Sep 04, 2011 5:34 am UTC

Technical Ben wrote:A single gene? Are they certain?

A single part of my computer is responsible for it functioning... It's called the fuse. The fuse being disabled does not provide proof the fuse has the mechanics that produce the rest of the working mechanism. The entire instruction set for the teeth could be separate for the toggle "on/off" of that instruction set. Finding the on/off switch is not the same as finding the instructions for production. Once they find those, then I'll be interested.

[edit]
Seems most here agree. :)
Do we not have examples of animals re-activating disabled genes already?

Your computer is not comparable to an organism except by the loosest analogies and in certain specific scenarios.

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Thesh » Sun Sep 04, 2011 9:41 am UTC

Genes are large databases containing flags, using a language similar to SQL, but all the keywords are latin. Basically they updated one row in the database and changed beak to reptile snout.
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Zamfir » Sun Sep 04, 2011 11:03 am UTC

Thesh wrote:Genes are large databases containing flags, using a language similar to SQL, but all the keywords are latin. Basically they updated one row in the database and changed beak to reptile snout.

When I ever discover a gene, I'll call it Robertus') DEMITTE TABULAM 'genera'

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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Technical Ben » Sun Sep 04, 2011 2:26 pm UTC

Sockmonkey wrote:
Spoiler:
Technical Ben wrote:A single gene? Are they certain?

A single part of my computer is responsible for it functioning... It's called the fuse. The fuse being disabled does not provide proof the fuse has the mechanics that produce the rest of the working mechanism. The entire instruction set for the teeth could be separate for the toggle "on/off" of that instruction set. Finding the on/off switch is not the same as finding the instructions for production. Once they find those, then I'll be interested.

[edit]
Seems most here agree. :)
Do we not have examples of animals re-activating disabled genes already?

Your computer is not comparable to an organism except by the loosest analogies and in certain specific scenarios.

Is this one of them?
We are talking about genetic "switches" here. Not genetic "transcription" or "translation" is it?
So I could use any example of a switch. We know how switches work. Getting the new information there is the interesting part.

Thesh wrote:Genes are large databases containing flags, using a language similar to SQL, but all the keywords are latin. Basically they updated one row in the database and changed beak to reptile snout.


Hey. Thanks, even better than "turned it on" example that I used. :)
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Re: Scientists Create Reptile-Snouted Chicken

Postby Sockmonkey » Sun Sep 04, 2011 3:05 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:
Sockmonkey wrote:
Spoiler:
Technical Ben wrote:A single gene? Are they certain?

A single part of my computer is responsible for it functioning... It's called the fuse. The fuse being disabled does not provide proof the fuse has the mechanics that produce the rest of the working mechanism. The entire instruction set for the teeth could be separate for the toggle "on/off" of that instruction set. Finding the on/off switch is not the same as finding the instructions for production. Once they find those, then I'll be interested.

[edit]
Seems most here agree. :)
Do we not have examples of animals re-activating disabled genes already?

Your computer is not comparable to an organism except by the loosest analogies and in certain specific scenarios.

Is this one of them?
We are talking about genetic "switches" here. Not genetic "transcription" or "translation" is it?
So I could use any example of a switch. We know how switches work. Getting the new information there is the interesting part.

Thesh wrote:Genes are large databases containing flags, using a language similar to SQL, but all the keywords are latin. Basically they updated one row in the database and changed beak to reptile snout.


Hey. Thanks, even better than "turned it on" example that I used. :)

Ah, sorry. Misread part of your post.


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