Thursday, April 23, 2009

I Was Hoping for a Cookbook...

Just wanted to elaborate a bit on the book "How to Build a Dinosaur" by Jack Horner. I can't really recommend you rush out and buy the book, parts of it were downright somnifacient, but the central thesis was so intriguing, I really must discuss.

Horner explains the whole conceit of Jurassic Park - finding a mosquito preserved in amber that had dinosaur blood in it from which a whole new dinosaur could be created millions of years later - is a great science fiction story plot, but not necessary. Instead, he suggests efforts towards De-evolution: taking a chicken egg, a bird we know to be closely related to the dinosaur, and reprogramming the egg to grow not a chicken, but a much more primitive creature.

Well, this to me is about the greatest idea since intermittent windshield wipers. I can't wait to get started! Unfortunately, the book did not include do-it-yourself tips or recipes.

Scientists have studied the development of the chicken embryo and can pinpoint the hour in incubation where items like eyes, beaks, or wings are created. By going down to the molecular level of cell development and turning on or off the switches that create a particular appendage, it is possible to grow an arm where a wing would be, or a tail where the spinal cord would normally end. So instead of a modern chicken developing, we could go further back into the evolutionary tree and see... a dinosaur?

Perhaps. No one knows exactly what one looked like. We would have only the fossil record to compare it to, but it's an excellent suggestion and I say full steam ahead! I'd love a little Archaeopteryx or Deinonychus.

No comments: