Jurrasic park is scary in the dark

August 26, 2009 at 5:33 am (ecology, mad science, mutate) (, , , )

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Jack Horner has a vision. A world-famous paleontologist who gives “an awful lot of lectures,” Horner pictures himself strolling out on stage before a crowd, just as he’s done countless times before. Instead of carrying the standard sheaf of notes or dusty slides, though, he has with him the ultimate prop: a real live dinosaur on a leash. “It’s small, but bigger than a chicken,” he writes in his new book, How to Build a Dinosaur. “Let’s say the size of a turkey, one day maybe even the size of an emu.” The emu-size dinosaur, he adds, “might have a muzzle or a couple of handlers.”

If it sounds straight out of Jurassic Park, it’s no coincidence: Horner served as scientific advisor on all three films, and is said to be an inspiration for the rugged protagonist, Alan Grant. Unlike in the movie, though, Horner thinks he can bring back a dinosaur without using its DNA—a crucial difference, because in real life, dino DNA hasn’t been recovered. Horner has a different plan. By making a few genetic tweaks to its modern-day ancestor, the bird, he wants to hatch a dinosaur straight from a chicken egg.

It’s Horner’s vision, and McGill University paleontologist Hans Larsson is working to make it happen. With Horner’s encouragement, Larsson is experimenting with chicken embryos to create the creature Horner describes: a “chickenosaurus,” they call it. If he succeeds, Larsson will have made an animal with clawed hands, teeth, a long, dinosaurian tail and ancestral plumage, one that shares characteristics with “the dinosaur we know that’s closest to birds, little raptors like the velociraptor,” Horner says.

The rest via: Next Big Future

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