A team of scientists have managed to create a chicken embryo with a dinosaur-like snout in order to study the evolution of the beak. The idea that birds evolved from dinosaurs has been around since the 19th century. The Archaeopteryx, was discovered in the early 1860s and was the first known bird. It had feathers, teeth and a long bony tail.
According to BBC, the research team led by scientists from Yale and Harvard have tweaked the activity of proteins in a chicken embryo to create a chicken with a reptile-like face. As dinosaurs slowly transitioned into their avian descendants, their snouts gradually morphed into beaks. Bringing those snouts back is part of an attempt to reverse engineer dinosaurs, which birds evolved from 150 million years ago.
Their first step was to identify why bird faces look different from reptile faces. The research team noticed that the cells that make two proteins involved in facial development have a different pattern in developing birds compared to developing reptiles. To see whether these proteins were important for beak formation, they infused a tiny bead with protein inhibitors and implanted it in the developing chicken embryo’s face.
They found two proteins that were only activated in birds, and those were the ones they blocked during their experiment.
The result suggests the kinds of evolutionary changes that led to the development of the beak. It also helps predict what undiscovered missing link species between dinosaurs and birds may have looked like, the researchers said.