Photo: Chicken embryo, Graeme Campbell/Wikmedia

A team of scientists have made a breakthrough in genetic research and development by growing dinosaur legs inside chicken eggs.

The landmark work was led by João Francisco Botelho from the University of Chile and the findings have been published in the journal ‘Evolution’.

It is well known that today’s birds are the descendants of the giant lizards that roamed the Earth 65 million years ago so chicken embryos that grow inside chicken eggs are the perfect incubator for such genetic research.

In order to carry out he work the team let a gene called Indian Hedgehog (IHH) inhibit among chickens. It was due to this gene that the chickens were able to grow long dinosaur-like fibulae. It is hoped that such work will help explain why birds developed shorter fibulas from long and tubular ones seen in dinosaurs.

The team had previously carried out work in 2015 which looked at how bird feet developed from their prehistoric ancestors. This work was ground-breaking at the time and garnered extensive media and academic attention.

None of the embryos were allowed to develop into chicks that could live outside of their eggs, and it is unclear what the effect of such genetic modifications would be on a living chicken.

While many see genetic research such as that seen as a key to furthering our understanding of the natural world others see it as ‘playing God’ and believe such genetic tinkering could lead to dangerous unseen consequences and profound moral dilemmas. While it can be claimed in some areas of science that genetic modification is acceptable as it can lead to medical breakthroughs this is not the case in these experiments, and therefore such activity could be met with even harsher criticism.

[Based on reporting by: IFL science]

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